Severin Rüegg

Severin Rüegg is a Zurich based historian and filmmaker. While his own productions are short documentaries, where he approaches political or socio-cultural topics through a set of precise observations, interviews and access to the material in archives of various kinds; his theoretical interest focuses on non-fictional films or 'ephemeral films'. Severin Rüegg has published several texts on educational film material made for the Swiss army, has been researching different archives and also visual material to document the cultural politics in Switzerland for Pro Helvetia and is currently working for humem. His research includes a wide range of material – working with text, visual or audio documents. Like this Severin Rüegg can observe a historical topic from several points of view and document history with a very true and convincing mix of both historical and contemporary material. Commissioned by Helvetic Centre, Severin Rüegg presents a film night, highlighting the variety of clichés of the Swiss cultural heritage and the potentials of Swiss Pop culture. The selection consists of rare short films, ethnographic material, Swiss army propaganda and TV-clippings from 1916 up to today.

Please join us for films and drinks
As part of the exhibition Switzerland: Design For Life Tuesday,
29 June - doors open at 7 pm,
films start 7.30 pm

A Foundation
Rochelle School & Club Row
Arnold Circus, London E2,
Old Street tube Station

How – What – Why – Where – etc.

You have been working with Pro Helvetia on a long-term project documenting their efforts to promote Swiss culture abroad. What were the results of this project and how are they accessible?

As a team of five young historians we've gone through the archives related to Pro Helvetia as an important federal Foundation for the promotion of swiss artists. My key interest was the internal discussion on what kind of art the foundation should promote. There is a major change in mentality, self-conception as a national foundation and the role artists play and try to fulfil in our society. The project lead to the publication of the book "Entre culture et politique: Pro Helvetia de 1939 à 2009", published this year in french, german and italian. Pro Helvetia was quite interested in this subject and so I suggested a DVD with historical audiovisual material about the foundation, which can now be ordered from Pro Helvetia. A film night with discussion on the same subject will start in autumn in several cities in Switzerland.

What is your special interest in film history? Is it non-fictional Swiss films?

I love to see movies, old and new, but my interest is non-fictional film. Non-fictional because there is still a lot to discover and it creates quite easily a link to the subject and the historical context. You see the host of television programme with a mustache or extravagant shoulder pads, the guests are smoking through the show and you get an impression of that specific time. A fertile ground to impart further knowledge.

When searching for Swiss films, short films and similar non-fictional material, which archives are worth consulting?

The most important archive for film (short, long or non-fictional) is the Cinématheque Suisse, but if you want to do some research and view non-fictional material the webbased archive is the first choice. The most films can be viewed in the National Archive (Bundesarchiv) in Bern. If you just want to browse through some old programs, there are quite interesting pieces to be found in the archive websites from the national TV stations.

Can you recommend any cinemas or film festivals, that are worth visiting when spending some time in Switzerland?

There is the International Short Film Festival Winterthur in November with a great atmosphere and a lot of directors from all over the world. Then there is the Neuchatel International Fantastic Film Festival a great occasion to spend some time in Neuchatel a wonderful small city with a fantastic lakeside and a quite interesting film programme, even though I'm not a big fan of fantasy.

What are you working on right now? Is there another book project coming up?

I'm working on a film and exhibition project around the humanitarian tradition which Switzerland is so proud of. Besides doing research for some documentaries, I'm preparing a book together with my partner Mara Truog, a freelance photographer. The book will be about the region in the alps, where her family has their origins, the Engadin. The valley, rich in culture, is very scenic and rough at the same time and like many peripheral areas currently in transition.

Severin Rüegg
Ménage, Pro Helvetia
Cinématheque Suisse
Swiss Television