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DE PURY TOUR DE SUISSE (De Pury Swiss Tour)

 

 

Awarded project in the competition La Statue de David de Pury vue par les artistes organised by the City of Neuchâtel.

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CONTEXT

 

In the 18th century, David de Pury left Neuchâtel at an early age to conduct business around the world. He traded mainly in diamonds and precious woods and, in circumstances that are now denounced by some, accumulated enormous wealth. In 1855, the town's notables launched a public subscription to raise a statue of him.


At the beginning of the millennium, in the wake of the raw materials trade that David de Pury had led three centuries earlier, Switzerland, his homeland, was the world's main trading platform in this field. In terms of metals, it has a 60% share of the global market, while its two closest rivals, Singapore and Shanghai, have a combined share of just 20%. The same domination is exercised in the sector of petroleum products (35%), cereals (35%), sugar (50%) or coffee (60%), all of which our small country occupies first place worldwide. According to recent figures, 70% of the world's gold is refined in Switzerland 1.

 

Active throughout the country but concentrated mainly in the Lake Geneva area, the canton of Zug and Ticino, imposing trusts are at the root of this trade in raw materials. Although they are little concerned by the Swiss political authorities and legislation - despite repeated warnings from civil society - they regularly make the headlines because of their human rights and environmental violations 2. They also attract attention - backed by local authorities that are all too often corrupt - because of the scandalously unfair distribution of wealth that they operate to the detriment of the indigenous populations in the countries where the raw materials come from 3.

At this point, the numbers can replace a lot of talk. They often make one dizzy. We will mention just one, for the sake of illustration. The projected 2022 budget of the Democratic Republic of Congo, a country that abounds in minerals and rare earths, is just over 9 billion Swiss francs, while that of the canton of Berne, which is not very well known - apart from water - for its raw materials, is almost 12 billion francs for a territory that is four hundred times smaller than that of the African country and a population that is eighty times smaller.

From the few elements mentioned above, from the context in which the City of Neuchâtel is launching its call for projects, I wish to put David de Pury in relation to our times. The questions raised by his activity are indeed of burning topicality, as shown by the passionate debate that recently accompanied the vote on responsible multinationals.

I think that the DE PURY TOUR DE SUISSE presented in the following pages, a project which proposes a dialogue - by statue - between the past and the present of our country, is likely to contribute constructively to this debate and to the positive evolution of the situation on the ground.

DE PURY TOUR DE SUISSE: THE PROJECT
 
Since David de Pury's taste for travel is well known, I am proposing to him - with the DE PURY TOUR DE SUISSE - to go on a walk. The planned walk will not take him to the wide world - as he was used to - but to the roads of his home country. Through his statue, he will meet his contemporary merchant and financial peers, those whose practices today - like his own yesterday - are ethically and legally controversial.
 
The DE PURY TOUR DE SUISSE consists of ten or so stages and half-stages 4, in which the effigy of David de Pury is temporarily moved to the headquarters and managers of some of the largest companies active in the commodities trade in Switzerland, loaded and secured on the deck of a van.
 
At each stage, the van will be stopped in front of the buildings housing one of the selected companies 5. I will have contacted their managers beforehand to invite them, when the statue arrives at their home, to come and greet it if they wish, and to dialogue through it with their ancestor in international trade. The van will then remain parked in front of the company until the departure of the next stage. In addition to those organised at company headquarters, a meeting between the effigy of David de Pury and national elected representatives is planned at the Federal Palace, the seat of Swiss political power.

Throughout the statue's journey through Switzerland, I intend to invite various personalities to Neuchâtel to discuss with the population issues related to the activities of David de Pury and his 21st century "descendants". These discussions will take place on the Place Pury, at the foot of the statue's temporarily empty plinth. The national history of the statue will also be documented there.
 
Once the DE PURY TOUR DE SUISSE is over, the statue of David de Pury will be unloaded from the van and re-mounted on its base.
 

OVERVIEW OF THE PLANNED TOUR DE SUISSE 7
 
Prologue (7.7 km): Neuchâtel Place Pury - Neuchâtel Metalor
Stage 1 (42 km): Neuchâtel Metalor - Bern Federal Palace

Stage 2 (33 km): Bern Palais fédéral - Fribourg Socfin
Stage 3 (160 km): Fribourg Socfin - Sarnen Gunvor
Half-stage 4a (22 km): Sarnen Gunvor - Luzern Louis Dreyfuss
Half-stage 4b (31 km): Luzern Louis Dreyfuss - Baar Glencore
Stage 5 (209 km): Baar Glencore - Balerna Valcambi
Stage 6 (362 km): Balerna Valcambi - Geneva Mercuria
Half-stage 7a (1.3 km): Geneva Mercuria - Geneva Trafigura
Half-stage 7b (2.3 km): Geneva Trafigura - Geneva Vitol
Stage 8 (124 km): Geneva Vitol - Neuchâtel Place Pury


NOTES

1. These figures are taken from various Swiss and international NGO reports.
2. Among other things, the violation of children's rights is regularly mentioned.
3. All the companies mentioned in the following pages have recently been the subject of critical reports by Swiss or international NGOs.
4. See pages 4-6 for the provisional route. The final number of stages has yet to be determined.
5. At present, the companies selected are Glencore (Baar, ZG), Gunvor (Geneva, Sarnen, OW), Louis Dreyfuss (Geneva, Luzern), Mercuria (Geneva), Metalor (Neuchâtel), Socfin (Fribourg), Trafigura
(Geneva), Valcambi (Balerna, TI), Vitol (Geneva). I am aware that the subject matter of the DE PURY TOUR DE SUISSE is highly sensitive. It does not allow for any approximation. The choice of companies visited must therefore be absolutely irreproachable and the topicality of the reports mentioned in note 3 duly verified.
6. Ethicists, philosophers, politicians, sociologists, traders, etc.
7. As mentioned above - see notes 4 and 5 - the final route has yet to be determined.






 

 

 

 

 

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