Dunja Herzog

With her installations embracing a multitude of objects, pictures and architectonic fabrics or elements, Dunja Herzog develops mindful spaces in which viewers move like in playful memory palaces in which a new language is spoken. In her 2013 show Laughter is usually the end of the conversation at the Instituto Svizzero, Milano, it is about “Functional objects, everyday objects, disposable things. What is the value of all this for contemporary occidental society? What are the true functions of these things? What needs do they satisfy? How do they infuence our everyday life? After a research that has led her to cross various cultures from the African Continent for many years, Dunja Herzog plunges back into the occidental world, assuming the viewpoint of things. She reassembles materials, mostly found by the wayside and in domestic places, and like a modern teller of fables she grants them a new existence.” Salvatore Lacagnina
The entanglement of objects, language and society is also explored in the exhibitionThe Word for World is Forest. 1646, 2014, which is part of Attempts to read the world (differently), a program developed by Stroom in Den Haag, in collaboration with the artists Fernando Sánchez Castillo, Céline Condorelli, Dunja Herzog and Neïl Beloufa. “The invitation to participate in Attempts to Read the World (Differently) offered an opportunity for Dunja Herzog to connect to the work of the Austrian born artist and Yoruba priestess Susanne Wenger (1915-2009). […] For Dunja Herzog, Wenger functions as a mediator offering a different perspective through which to read global developments and the history of art. Wenger offers Herzog a way out of thinking in binary oppositions of self and other, opting for the contagious travel of ideas and thoughts, and accepting that what is lost and gained in translation.” Dyveke Rood
These thematics further appear in Dunja Herzog’s works shown 2014 in Seeing Things, Glasgow International, Glasgow, in A bigger page than usual allows writing beyond an end, 2015, New Bretagne / Belle Air, Essen and 2016 in Aargauer Kuratorium, Aargauer Kunsthaus, until her recent participation at the Lagos Biennale 2017.


SAA: Would you tell us something about the artwork you will present at the Swiss Art Awards 2018?

DH: “A Personal Affair. Digging to Remember Forward. Part Two.” Deals with the history of the Basel Trading Company, as an example of the imperial history of Switzerland. The work was originally developed for and shown at the Lagos Biennale, which took place in October last year in Lagos, Nigeria. The context of Basel and the location of the fair grant me the opportunity to reconfigure the work and to tell the story from another angle.

“A Personal Affair. Digging to Remember Forward. Part Two.” beschäftigt sich mit der Geschichte der Basler Handelsgesellschaft, als Beispiel für die imperiale Geschichte der Schweiz. Die Arbeit wurde ursprünglich für die Lagos Biennale entwickelt, welche im Oktober vom letzen Jahr in Lagos, Nigeria stattfand. Der Kontext von Basel und der Standort der Messe geben mir die Möglichkeit, die Arbeit zu neu zu konfigurieren und die Geschichte aus einer anderen Perspektive zu erzählen.

SAA: Which worlds does your work involve, address, and how?

DH: By addressing the history of one of the biggest colonial trading companies present in West Africa during the 19th and 20th century, I aim to “make a contribution to the growing process of de-coloniality around the world” (Walter D. Mignolo). My work is concerned with understanding the past in a different way, so that I can de-link of things I learned and know. I’m interested in other histories, in parallel realities, so that the Western model can be experienced, understood or processed as just an option.

In dem ich die Geschichte einer der grössten kolonialen Handelsgesellschaften anspreche, welche während des 19 Jh. und 20 Jh. In Westafrika präsent waren, möchte ich «einen Beitrag zum weltweit wachsenden Prozess der Dekolonialität leisten» (Walter D. Mignolo). Meine Arbeit beschäftigt sich damit die Vergangenheit aus einem anderen Blickwinkel zu betrachten, so dass ich mich von dem was ich gelernt habe und was ich weiss „ausklinken“ kann. Ich bin an anderer/n Geschichte/n interessiert, an parallelen Realitäten, so dass es möglich ist, dass westliche Modell nur noch als Option wahrzunehmen, aufzufassen oder zu verarbeiten.

SAA: If you could work with a specialist, from which field would that be and on what kind of project?

DH: I’m interested in working with different people who come from different places and have deep knowledge in very different fields. For example, at the moment I’m working together with Phil Omodamwen from Benin-City in Nigeria. Phil is a 7th generation bronze caster. His family history dates back to the big Edo Kingdom, where bronze was cast since the 13th century. Together with him I’m working on a jewelry line.

Ich bin interessiert daran mit verschiedenen Menschen zusammen zu arbeiten, welche von verschiednen Orten kommen und ganz unterschiedliches tiefes Wissen haben. Zum Beispiel arbeite ich im Moment zusammen mit Phil Omodamwen aus Benin-City, Nigeria. Phil ist Bronzegiesser in der 7-Generation. Seine Familiengeschichte reicht zurück bis ins grosse Edo Königreich, wo man seit dem 13 Jh. Bronzen anfertigt. Mit ihm zusammen arbeite ich an einer Schmuckkollektion.

SAA: Is there a place (in and out of Switzerland) that inspires your work?

DH: I find my hometown Basel very inspiring, as it’s full of very interesting histories that link this small town to the world. Another place that is very important to me is Lagos. There is something very honest about this city. So many different realities inhabit this place that it feels very real to be there. It’s a demanding place that makes me question myself a lot, but it does so in a very constructive way. There is a feeling I have when I’m there, that this place knows already something about the future.

Für mich ist meine Heimatstadt Basel sehr inspirierend, da sie voll von sehr interessanten Geschichten ist, welche diese kleine Stadt mit der Welt verknüpft. Ein anderer Ort welcher für mich im Moment sehr wichtig ist, ist Lagos. Diese Stadt hat was sehr ehrliches. Es fühlt sich sehr wirklichkeitsnah an dort zu sein, da an diesem Ort so viele verschiedene Realitäten zusammen treffen. Es ist ein fordernder Ort, der mich, in einer konstruktiven Art und Weise, immer wieder dazu bringt, mich selbst zu hinterfragen. Es ist als ob dieser Ort schon etwas von der Zukunft wüsste.

SAA: In the future, looking back: What will art history write about you?

DH: I’m sure they will find something.

Ich bin mir sicher, dass sie was finden werden.


SAA: What is the mark you want to leave behind?

DH: It would be nice if people would feel a smile when they think about me.

Es wäre schön, wenn die Menschen welche an mich denken, ein Lächeln verspüren würden.