What's up? Heidi in a gallery for contemporary art? She is the most widely read book from Switzerland,
translated into more then 50 languages, filmed over a dozen times and retold in countless TV series and
comic books. Commercially she is over baked: from Heidi Water to Heidi Country.
This immortal masterpiece of children's literature is a curse that has turned our country into a stereotype and
we can only shake our heads while trying to explain this anachronism to foreign visitors. Excuse me: we
can’t – we must! Yes, it has become a reflex to explain to tourists that Heidi and modern Switzerland have
nothing to do with one another. Yes, we are insulted by these Heidi inspired tourists. All of them are deluded
seekers who long to romanticize goat herders and illiterates. We are not this way and we were not this way,
when Ms Spyri printed her book in 1880.
Either you look away from the unenlightened tourists revealing smile. Or you take the money out of their
pockets. It is money from the un-teachable. Or maybe you just want to satisfy your more base motives such
as revenge or greed.
The tourists have also heard about the money. Some do appreciate modern Switzerland. They happily hoard
and manage their assets here, when the Swiss banker says: "In gold we trust." But even these modern
people have the Heidi myth instilled in them during childhood; either having read or saw the Heidi saga with
their families and then after having visited the Zurich parade grounds, traveled into the mountains where she
greets them at a hotel or home. They like to spend their valuable time in "Heidi Wonderland." Why? Why is
Heidi more known than Roger Federer?
Because Heidi embodies a timeless figure who, even in difficult times, had her heart in the right place. Heidi
is not a withdrawn mountain creature that refuses social change. Heidi travels abroad (to Germany) and
learns to read there, because she recognizes the challenges of modern life with open eyes. She takes the
good things of industrialized society, but denies those new conventions, which she regards as a nonsensical
fashion or a dehumanizing force. She rebelled against everything that she thought rejected nature and
uprooted people. She is a grounded citizen of the world, whose core is incorruptible.
Unlike her friend, Peter the goat herder, who is afraid of everything strange and new, and therefore not ready
to learn to read or to expand his horizons. Our Heidi takes this hardened mountain boy and open his heart
up and allows him to follow her life philosophy. Her intuitive wisdom also gives new legs to a handicapped
child from the big city. Her insistence to help third parties is based on the infallibility of Heidi's soul, which is
guided and nurtured by her connection to nature. Heidi is incorruptible and thus has a timeless character that
every child understands and accepts as a moral role model.
Johanna Spyri's Heidi series were created in a time of strong social change and were a lighthouse, a light
that has not grown weaker. This light still protects our country today – especially during a time of intense
social upheaval - and packages them into a myth that relativises any critical consideration of the State Bank
of Switzerland. It appears to us in a friendly light, so that you can’t assume the core of our nature is greed.
Therefore Heidi is not a discontinued model, but a patron, who even gives the armed Helvetia on our coins, a
fine character, should that coin be more intensely scrutinized by the tourist
We should not fight this image of our country, but preserve it. This must also include the stereotypes and
romantic illusions. So if there is a visual representation, it is the critically branded tourist kitsch adaptation of
"Heidi and Peter" (1955) directed by Franz Schnyder. Schnyder's film draws the nature of the character
Heidi, staged as a dance on a postcard image and turned it into a film that corresponds to the heart of the
novel. The integration of the main characters in the romanticized landscape works perfectly and the
aesthetics of the Technicolor generates an exaggeration of romanticism. It is unreal and dreamlike. The
pictures are reminiscent of the paintings of the Impressionists, who - like Schnyder - harbored the intention of
leading the eye more differently than usual, so as to create new worlds of vision.
Combining the best stills of the film with the unique wax technique of the artist Patrick Lo Giudice, this effect
is multiplied. Because the wax is applied in layers, the image is blurred and with depth, so that a new
aesthetic discloses an exaggeration of an exaggeration, so to speak, with each layer of wax to wax the eye
and the heart of the beholder is charmed: Heidi Wonderland precisely.