SCH is the result of a 5-month curatorial residency in 2016/17 at Ausstellungsraum Klingental in Basel (a cooperation with Pro Helvetia Johannesburg and Atelier Mondial).

Together with a diverse group of fellow travellers, artists and cultural practitioners based in Switzerland, the project explores stories of those who live here [in CH], but who do not (or cannot) quite belong; stories that have been silent or silenced, forgotten or buried.

This project consists of a series of encounters that resist silence (or use silence as resistance); seeking to compose the muted SCH into the reverberating stories it longs to tell – about SCHweigen (silence), SCHweiz (Switzerland) SCHweiss (sweat), GeSCHichte (history), SCHichten (layers), SCHützen (protecting), SCHerzen (joking), SCHämen (being ashamed), SCHreien (screaming), SCHwarz (black), falSCH (wrong), VerSChwinden (disappearing)…

With his large-scale installation, the only permanent feature in this project, Youssef Limoud provided the physical framework for these encounters, proposing a “Geometrie des Vorübergehenden” (a Geometry of Passing) that can only be navigated through new pathways. 

The “passing” in Limoud’s title, one on level, denotes the movement of bodies, be it across oceans in hope of a better safer life or the daily commute to sustain livelihoods. On another level, it speaks to the passing of time, to the memories that remain and those that are denied or forgotten. The double meaning in the title also insinuates that silenced histories, dormant but restless, inevitably resurface, just as bodies keep moving. 

“Things loose their function and become remnants, scraps, a geography that embodies history, like ruins. Ruins are the result of violence,whether caused by man, nature or time. It is at the end a place of silence, or silence itself. It is a picture of the future as it is a picture of the past” Youssef Limoud

Limoud trained as a painter. He has lived in Basel since the early nineties and had his last show in the city around 2005. This was his first exhibition since then and the first time he presented his installation work in Switzerland. In 2016 Limoud won the Grand Prix Léopold Sédar Senghor at the 12th edition of the Dakar Biennial for his installation “Maqam”. 

In s[CH]til Amina Abdulkadir transforms silence into sounds, art into purpose, precision into liberation, herself into observer and the audience into an attraction. 

S[CH]til is both cultured scream (german s[CH]rei) and insistent silence (German s[CH]weigen). It is the reaction to the rumbling in a society that believes to have lost its identity. In four interconnected stages, Amina Abdulkadir together with her audience traces this [CH] identity, exploiting the scratchy “CH” sound so typical for this country to reach catharsis. In this process, stereotyping becomes liberation, art becomes purpose and the question about identity becomes the answer itself.

This word/sound artist naturally unites screaming and soft sounds. Her art oscillates between spoken and suppressed words. This irritation uncovers weak spots as well as healing tinctures. S[CH]til is Abdulkadir’s first theatrical performance piece, which she developed in the context of the curatorial experiment “SCH”. 

The lives of ethnologist Rohit Jain and artist Said Adrus were connected through postcolonial entanglements, unbeknownst to them. The one was born in the Bernese suburb of Hinterkappelen in the late 1970s, when the other left nearby Gyrischachen, Burgdorf, for London Calling. The one chose critical arts in Black Britain to represent his story. The other discovered social anthropology and British Cultural Studies almost two decades later to engage postcolonial Switzerland. 

By chance, it seems, they met in 2013 in Berne and plunged into deep and intimate conversations about (their personal) biographies, archives and politics. This dialogue between Said and Rohit displaces Swiss postcolonial amnesia. Electrified by the re-enactment and imagination of old and new histories, the conversations reveal a dense web of nostalgia, resistance and rupture beyond nation and empire. 

In the context of the SCH project this experimental way of imagining can now be performed for the first time. Straight Outta Gyri combines audiovisual clips from  a recent project by Said Adrus as well as artefacts from personal and historical archives. This setting stages a performative, semi-public conversation between Said and Rohit, which unleashes and invents an affective space for building a new community in a reparative future. 

Olivia Wiederkehr often passes through the most populated spaces unseen. In Hiding Wings, she carries her territory on her person, makes herself invisible, is there and yet not there at all. 

“[Wo]man always wants to conquer nature and for this conquest he has to gear up. He requires protective covers like clothing and tents. He has to create spaces that, on the one hand, isolate him from nature and at the same time connect him to it.” “ We build protective spaces, haptic but also mental, to create an awareness about who we are and in order to perceive what is happening around us in the first place.” Naomi Gregoris

It is in these kinds of spaces that the artist, Olivia Wiederkehr, explores her work. “Spaces” for her are more than room-like constructions. They are what happens when people interact with their environment. “The moment we encounter one another, an ephemeral space is created that exists for a short time only.”

Uriel Orlow turns to plants as both witnesses and actors in history. He describes what the botanical world reveals about politics at large, about being indigenous and being foreign, about politics of invasion, about early detection and immediate action. 

Since 2014 Uriel Orlow has been developing a new body of research, which looks to the botanical world as a stage for politics at large. Working from the dual vantage points of Switzerland and South Africa he has been considering plants as both witnesses and actors in history, and as a dynamic agent – linking nature and humans across different geographies and systems of knowledge. His lecture performance is about being indigenous and being foreign, about the politics of invasion, about early detection and immediate action. He will combine stories of plants, gardens and people, including the alpine balcony flowers and the garden Nelson Mandela and his fellow inmates created in the Robben Island prison.

Poetry is timeless. She can speak about any time at any time and those who, like Henri-Michel Yéré, speak her language become the mouthpiece of history. 

Geneses and births start out of the night. From within the bosom, from within the darkness, out into the light. 

Night is shelter indeed. But the night is the perfect curtain behind which one can get ready to re-enter the world, reborn. Poetry seizes the contours of this renewal, and talks of the possible worlds to come. Henri Michel-Michel Yéré

Yéré’s poetry is a gesture aimed at capturing this tension, with the hope of opening the reservoirs of tomorrows contained inside our own nights. For SCH he was accompanied by the musician Kelvin Bullen.

Büro für Postbürokratie (Bureau for Post-Bureaucracy)

“Keine Macht dem Posteingang! Postbürokratis[ch]e Gegenuntersuchungen” (No power to the Inbox. Post-bureaucratic counter-assessments)

Does this sound familiar? Bureaucratic letters, containing sentences of official gibberish that leave you with nothing less but helplessness? Even before the envelopes start piling up in your mailbox, the shockwave of potential final notices, cancellations, dispossessions and mountains of debt is palpable. 

The BFPB invited all those with a tendency to capitulate in the face of their mailbox. Bring your migration cases, your applications for naturalisation, your tax returns, your criminal proceedings, court cases, adoption cases, partnership registrations, marriage of convenience procedures, rejection letters, job applications, disability benefit administration, bills, sex change proceedings, name change proceedings, resident permit applications, Intrum Justizia documents, birth and death administration…and, of course, all your unsent letters. 

“Together and with confidence we dare a post bureaucratic experimental arrangement and dissect the language of power. A telephone, a computer, a printer, scissors, glue and pens, tipex and nail polish and a trash bin for a fire will be provided for the occasion. A stroboscopic montage will emerge in the end, consisting of texts and drawings, a top ten list or a manifesto, with unexpected entanglements, associations and narratives about a world, in which our existence can be demarcated on an A4 sheet of paper, the moment we have an official address. Naturally we will assist you in tackling any unopened mail or urgent phone calls over a cup of coffee.” BFPB

The LaunSCH for this project, which coincided with the opening of the Regionale, culminated at the Ausstellungsraum Klingental, launching SCH with sounds that break the silence by NORIENTho, followed by Jordi Fresco and the Mittwochsbar DJs Papiro, Stu and Roy DMC. The FiniSCH was an offering by Fred Hystère (Zurich, OOR Records) who invited to a listening session through her personal audio-archive and record collection while reflecting her* own modes of collecting.

Some voices flow by and are asked for advice: The Breadwoman, Donna Hathaway, Ogoya Nengo, James Baldwin, Sara Ahmed, Alexander G. Weheliye, BQF, Simon Gikandi, Pauline Oliveros, Tarek Atoui and others. How to question dominant modes of listening though the practice of mixing, not as “to talk about” but “to listen nearby”? “Hearing with” as “being with”. Who is speaking, who is listening? When to use breaks, gaps and silence as a strategy to gain time to remember silenced historie*s and slow down dominant modes of simplification? How to interrupt the “inhabited silences” of whiteness, how to disrupt speech as entitlement, how to transcend the deafness of cultural conditioning through a collective sonic experience?

“We have two ears and only one mouth, so we can hear twice as much as we speak.

And of course I am afraid, because the transformation of silence into language and action is an act of self-revelation, and that always seems fraught with danger. (…) In the cause of silence, each of us draws the face of her own fear – fear of contempt, of censure, of some judgment, of recognition, of challenge, of annihilation. But most of all, I think we fear the visibility without which we cannot truly live.”

Audre Lorde, “The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action”, 1977. 

SCH…is and shall remain fragmented. It continues, and it continues to engage the question that Martin Dean poses about the “invisible mass”:

“Where are their biographies, their living conditions and their spaces negotiated? Have we, as cultural practitioners, neglected to respond to this poisoned climate by proposing a different, more favourable one?”