Voices from an archived silence
Although Switzerland did not possess colonies of its own, it was still involved in colonial history. University research in particular was able to benefit from the imperialist endeavours of the European colonial powers. For scientific purposes the two Basel naturalists Fritz and Paul Sarasin brought exotic animals and plants, ethnological and archaeological objects as well as skulls and skeletons to Basel.
The co-curators Vera Ryser and Sally Schonfeldt explored Basel’s archives in search of the legacy of the two naturalists. In collaboration with artists from Sri Lanka and Indonesia an alternative archive has been created which includes perspectives from the countries of origin and opens up scope for a broader interpretation of results yielded by the research of that time. The gaps that the archived objects have left behind in Sri Lankan artist Deneth Piumakshi Wedaarachchige’s homeland become visible in her work from a contemporary perspective. In the interviews recorded by the Indonesian video artist ‹Jimged› Ary Sendy Trisdiarto that were made in Jakarta together with the Swiss-born visual artist Angela Wittwer it becomes evident what the effects of colonial history were on local circumstances and how present day global structures influence the country today. The exhibition shares themes with the world premiere of «Resurrection of the Birds» by writer in residence Thiemo Strutzenberger and can be seen in parallel to this in Theater Basel’s foyer. There will also be a series of discussions in which experts, artists and academics will consider how it is possible for us now to engage responsibly with the past and also Switzerland’s position.
The exhibition «Stimmen aus einer archivierten Stille» is sponsored by Bernhard C. Schär (ETH Zürich), Schweizerischen Nationalfonds SNF (Agora-Projekt), Schweizer Kulturstiftung Pro Helvetia, Christoph Merian Stiftung, Ernst Göhner Stiftung and Aargauer Kuratorium.