The starting point for this project was the discovery os an article about my grandfather, Hans Mazenauer, written in 1982 in the Swiss newspaper 24heures. It recounts his intention to search for gold in the former Republic of Zaïre (the Democratic Republic of the Congo, DRC) and his relationship with President Mobutu Sese Seko. The commodification of gold can be seen doubly in the symbolic mountainous areas of Switzerland. On one hand, in an implicit way in the forts dug into the rock. On the other hand, and more explicitly, through the ruins of the Congo gold mines which went bankrupt in 1897. Paradoxically, the gold kept and preserved on the Swiss territory is extracted from mines in the DRC.
I aimed to connect these spatially distant lands; those mining in the DRC and conservation in Switzerland. The story of Hans Mazenauer attempts to challenge the image of a neutral Switzerland and allows me to put his direct involvement in gold mining into perspective.
finalist for the 25.VFG Nachwuchsförderpreis
1 Hans E. Mazenauer. Family archive. In connection with President Mobutu Sese Seko, my grandfather planned to exploit six gold mines in the former Republic of Zaïre.
2 Six mines d’or pour un Suisse. Press archive. Excerpts from an article published in the Swiss newspaper 24 heures, December 22, 1982.
3 Saint-Gothard. Silver print, gold toning. The Gothard region symbolically represents Switzerland. It is used as an argument for the owners of gold bars who would like to keep them safely.
4 Positive. Photographic molding. A satellite image of the mine of Kibali in Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) served as model.
5 Vreneli. Macro photography. A mountain appears on a Vreneli, gold coin issued in Switzerland between 1897 and 1935.
6 Mobutu Sese Seko. Screenshot from the film Muhammad Ali The Greatest directed by William Klein in 1969.
7 Zaïre, 1982. Press archive. Image published aside from the article Six mines d’or pour un Suisse.
8 Gondo. Photograph, collage. Image taken in the ruins of the Swiss old gold mine in Gondo (VS). It was in operation from mid-17th until 1897.