Book Presentation

The Air Will Not Deny You

27 May 2016 | Johann Jacobs Museum

Digging the DNA of Swiss history and the nation’s imaginary constructs, the first publication of the cooperation platform DeNeutralize, initiated in the fall 2015 by lecturer and curator Daniel Kurjaković, sets its focus on Zurich to discover a quite unfamiliar topography. The publication The Air Will Not Deny You assembles new contributions from 40 artists, researchers, authors and activists, who examine the presumed neutrality of Switzerland and Zurich.

The Air Will Not Deny You gathers collages of texts and images, in essays that analyze the role of Zurich in a process often repressed and thus little known globally. Through an experimental montage of discursive, aesthetic and fictional contributions, a team of 40 historians, artists, authors and activists lay down a network of perspectives of “a different Zurich” – a diagonal view of a city crisscrossed by global transfers of capital, ideas, and people. The title The Air Will Not Deny You comes from a poem by Nigerian writer Wole Soyinka (Dedication, for Moremi, 1963). Addressing Soyinka’s vision directly, with the purpose of finding a Zurich beyond territorial boundaries, the repressed and the concealed may come to surface and help readers understand the city’s present moment, not veiled by idealisations and subtle mechanisms of ignorance.

Beyond the riches that Nature bestowed the land, the proficient handling of capital with social precision is attributed to “neutrality” – a mental construct that aims for the Zero, worships discretion and effaces memory. Besides brain power and corporate expatriates, capital flows also brought to Zurich citizens from various diasporas – exiled or immigrant thinkers, activists, artists, scientists, but these stories have not been integrated in the Swiss fabric: under a blanket of neutral discretion, thick layers of history are kept hidden from the national narrative.

The sources of the wealth that flow through the city’s arteries are in the same way hidden from the public eye, but a new generation of historians, researchers and writers have been digging these layers in the past two decades, unearthing traces of Switzerland’s colonial and post-colonial ventures in the wake of the various Western powers – and the extent of these trades that are very much embroidered in the present national economy and culture.

It has not been a work without criticism. The minders of neutrality have been quick in denouncing this movement as an attempt to smear the country’s image, its reputation and humanitarian tradition, and so far even this grassroots archaeological effort has not found its place outside the restricted circles of academia or among the literati. Impending manifestations of “summer culture” – music festivals or biennales and the like – are hardly the platforms expected to shed light on the more intricate and exciting narratives. Sharing this impression, a handful of cultural institutions dedicated to arts and science banded together in order to offer an alternative topography of the city from a non-neutral perspective.


The Air Will Not Deny You – Zurich’s other globality. 
Kurjakovic, D., Koch, F., and Pfäffli, L. (Eds.).
Zurich/Berlin: diaphanes. 2016

Contributing Authors: Autonome Schule Zürich, John Barker, Monika Dommann, Ines Doujak, Kijan Espahangizi, Harald Fischer-Tiné, Pascal Germann, Dominik Gross, Lea Haller, Cathérine Hug, Rohit Jain, knowbotiq (Yvonne Wilhelm, Christian Huebler), Lucie Kolb, Koyo Kouoh, Franz Krähenbühl, Gesine Krüger, Konrad J. Kuhn, Roland Lüthi, Robert Menasse, Eva Meyer, Katharina Morawek, Souvik Naha, Uriel Orlow, Lea Pfäffli, Barbara Preisig, Sophia Prinz, Patricia Purtschert, Marcelo Rezende, Roma Jam Session art Kollektiv (Mustafa Asan, Mo Diener, Milena Petrovic), Romy Rüegger, Vittorio Santoro, Sally Schonfeldt, Ursula Sulser, Jakob Tanner, Andreas Zangger, Tim Zulauf.

In partnership with the Johann Jacobs Museum, Zurich; Visual Arts (ZHdK – Zurich University of the Arts), Bachelor of Art & Media (ZHdK); IFCAR Institute for Contemporary Art Research (ZHdK); and the Chair of History of the Modern World (ETH Zurich).