Switzerland is well-known as one of the safest countries on earth and as a prime example of efficiency and efficacy. But how do state and private actors ensure this valuable commodity, which is as much a basic need as it is a billion-dollar business? And how much freedom are we as citizens willing to give up for our security?
Between 2014 and 2018, Salvatore Vitale (born 1986 in Palermo, lives in Lugano and Zurich) set out on a visual research project, to discover the central underlying tenets for such a country to evolve, exist and endure. One of the central conditions he made out is the development of a culture based on securing, protecting, insuring and preventing, which is supported by the presence and production of national security. In order to do this, Vitale investigated the social and technological mechanisms underlying this preventive and defensive shield and takes a close look at the various institutional protagonists involved — police, military, customs and migration authorities, weather services, IT companies, and research institutions for robotics and artificial intelligence.
He proposes to find these mechanisms in sets of embodied and often internalized individual and collective routines and practices, which support the production of systemic state-wide national security. The project is for example interested in exploring and visualizing questions like: Why do the Swiss armed forces worry about the annual worry barometer? How does integrated border management work? What does the Réduit have to do with bitcoin and cyber-security? Or what is predictive policing? It positions itself as a contemporaneous artistic contribution to debates in a society that is confronted with growing threats — real or perceived — from terrorism and cybercrime, surveillance and data misuse. It also inscribes itself into current Swiss political debates on Swiss arms exports and citizen privacy.
The manual accompanied the exhibition Salvatore Vitale. How to Secure a Country shown at Fotostiftung Schweiz from 23rd of February until 26th of May 2019. A pdf of the publication is available for download from Vitale’s website.