STATE FICTION. The Gaze of the Swiss Neutral Mission in the Korean Demilitarized Zone
Denise Bertschi’s book about the Swiss mission in Korea’s Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), which has existed since 1953, contains more than 350 pages of fascinating pictorial and textual material that is displayed to best advantage thanks to a restrained design. Countless photos and series of stills from Super-8 films taken by Swiss army members over the course of two decades in the DMZ are combined with brief text excerpts from diaries and other documents into a book that repays in-depth reading. The seemingly idyllic images of flowers and landscapes as well as everyday scenes of life in the Swiss enclave almost entirely obscure the political and military conflict; the book thus analyses an (at least partially aesthetic) self-assertion of freedom and neutrality. In some cases we seem to be looking at stereotypical holiday snaps; but because this time the tourist gaze is directed back at itself, the atmosphere becomes uncannily tense. Three bilingual essays interspersed between the pages of images offer a variety of background information.