Participants in Christian Nerf’s Polite Force pay attention to their environment, seeing where they can offer assistance and provide small kindnesses. The late artist Barend de Wet performed Polite Force at the World Trade Center in Johannesburg (2002) and a sample of subsequent iterations include performances at Tufts University in Massachusetts (2004), in Central Park, New York City with the assistance of Kate Fowle (2005), and on Buitenkant Street, Cape Town by children (2019). Its most recent iteration (2021) saw Dan Halter take Polite Force to the Beitbridge border crossing between Zimbabwe and South Africa, offering cool-drinks, shade, pleasantries and conversation to migrant workers, traders, border officials, smugglers, and citizens of both countries.
Since its first performance in 2002, Nerf has collected an archive of gear and ephemera related to the project. Unpacking the archive reveals photo-negatives, a signed Polite Force Enrolment Form, loan agreements, a bulletproof vest and visor.
It is possible to become ‘Polite’ and enact the Force’s values anywhere, at any time.
Discharge screen print on Mauritian cotton shirt.