Nicolas Trembley

Swiss Swiss Democracy Experience is a video documentary that portrays the exhibition Swiss-Swiss Democracy by the Swiss artist Thomas Hirschhorn and the political and media scandal that surrounded it. The film is made by Nicolas Trembley of Bureau des Videos, Paris.

On 4 December, 2004, Hirschhorn opened his exhibition Swiss-Swiss Democracy at Centre Cultural Suisse in Paris. The intention of the artist was to pose broad questions about the state of democracy, using Switzerland as an example. The presentation was an all-encompassing installation, where the whole of the exhibition space was covered with multicoloured cardboard, newspaper clippings, graffiti, posters, photos and official documents, and all the furniture was wrapped in duct tape. Moreover, on every day of the exhibition, fifty days in all, a newspaper was published, a lecture was presented by philosopher Markus Steinweg and a theatre play by the Gwenael Morin Company based on Wilhelm Tell, the mythological founder figure of Switzerland was shown. It was the play that created the incredible polemic among the politicians of Switzerland relayed by the populist press. The play expresses the Hirschhorn’s revolt against the election of Christoph Blocher to the Federal Council of Switzerland and his doubts about the state of democracy Switzerland. The Hirschhorn’s concerns about Swiss complacency in relation to the country’s renowned form of direct democracy are expressed clearly, for example, in the last scene of the play. Here the actors commemorate the foundation of Swiss democracy, by chanting ‘We are free, we are free, we are free.’ only to curl up under a large poster depicting Wilhelm Tell and fall asleep.

The result of the scandal was that an unprecedented amount of one million Swiss francs was cut from the annual budget of Pro Helvetia, the state foundation for visual art.


"Swiss Swiss Democracy Experience" (Portrait of Thomas Hirschhorn) by Nicolas Trembley (2005) (video)