Q&A: Salvatore Vitale — How To Secure A Country


Have you recently been living by any life philosophy? Not really. Are you aware of any conspiracies? I’m aware of many. As everyone is in the internet age. But I’m not too critical about that, I enjoy exploring how creative groups of people can be and how, still, humans need to believe in something higher, bigger, out of their control. I’m not talking about metaphysics here, but pure structural relationships. However, my favourite one is an old classic, the flat earth theory. What is it that interests you about photography? I’ll make it simple: I guess what keeps my interest in photography alive is mostly connected with the fact there is still a lot to discover and say about it. Expanding the field of what is considered to be purely representational and, somehow, breaking down some dogmas which still influence the way we look at and relate to it. What is the worst thing about city life? I enjoy city life, but what I miss is the silence. There is so much to find out and experience in silence. What part of the planet would you like to explore? I am planning to explore more South East Asia. What do you think is the most plausible of the supernatural? God. The concept itself of God in any of its forms. That’s so concrete and real. Although I’m not a believer, how much is this concept able to determine and shape who we are? I believe this goes beyond the supernatural. Anything which leads to a concrete consequence can definitely find its essence in this world. If you had to align yourself with a leader in history, who would it be? I’m not a big fan of leaders. But I have something for Lenin. Pick a field of science to be an expert within. I wish I was trained as a theoretical physicist. I admire the speculative and predictive side of it. What moment have you most wished you’d had a camera when you hadn’t? This might sound pretentious, but I can’t recall any moment in which this happened.

Choose a job you would be willing to do for free on the side. Can I also pick a job I’ve been doing for free on the side over the years? Well, in that case editing YET magazine was the best job ever! Describe the most important photo you’ve seen. I won’t mention a single photograph, but a whole body of work: Ravens by Masahisa Fukase. How often do you take other people’s advice? Very often. That’s essential for my profession and the way I work on and develop my ideas. Which living person do you most admire? Too many, too hard to choose one. So, let me mention one of those many, the first that comes to my mind in this specific moment: Shahidul Alam. Definitely one of the strongest men I’ve ever met. What was the last crime you witnessed? Umh, actually this makes me think I have witnessed quite a lot of crimes in the past. The last one is a house robbery. What is the best way to educate yourself? Reading and asking questions. What is the next book you want to read? I’m about to start to read Uncanny Networks: Dialogues with the Virtual Intelligentsia by Geert Lovink. Ultimate camera? Always been a fan of Sinar p3-df. Most used camera? I’m not obsessed with cameras. They’re just a tool. I use whatever I need in the specific moment I need it. However, I’ve been using a lot in the past an old Mamiya 645 Pro and I enjoyed it. What object do you want? Right now I guess I wouldn’t mind a ticket to Shanghai, since I was supposed to be there. What object do you need? A powerful private cloud computing service.

How would you explain the internet to someone from the 1950’s? “Governments of the Industrial World, you weary giants of flesh and steel, I come from Cyberspace, the new home of Mind. On behalf of the future, I ask you of the past to leave us alone. You are not welcome among us. You have no sovereignty where we gather.” (Barlow, “A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace”). And “Data, sounds, and images are now routinely transitioning beyond screens into a different state of matter. They surpass the boundaries of data channels and manifest materially. They incarnate as riots or products, as lens flares, high-rises, or pixelated tanks. Images become unplugged and unhinged and start crowding off-screen space. They invade cities, transforming spaces into sites, and reality into realty.” (Hito Steyerl, Too Much World: Is the Internet Dead?) But let me add: the Internet is a superstructure. Internet is a behavioural system built upon trust, therefore it’s a big lie. But at least it makes us all feel free from any sort of physical boundary. Are you satisfied with your level of physical strength? Not really. I’m getting old probably. Describe a cheap thrill. Street food in Palermo is a great example! Pick a historic moment from the last hundred years to bring a camera to. The Millennium Bug. Are impulses more important than consequences? Wrong person to ask this question too. I think very much about consequences, but I don’t necessarily place it on a scale of importance. Which talent would you most like to have? I’d love to be able to paint. What is your plan for the next 24 hours? I’m stuck at home like the majority of the world population right now. So, my plan is nothing particularly exciting. I’ll just read, do some research, cook and have the next Skype meeting.

Switzerland is well-known as one of the safest countries on earth and as a prime example of efficiency and efficacy. One of the central reasons that such a country exists is the development of a culture based on protection, which is supported by the presence and production of national security. When in 2014 Swiss people voted in favor of a federal popular initiative “against massive immigration,” Salvatore Vitale, an immigrant living in Switzerland felt the need to research this phenomenon in order to comprehend where the motives for this constant need for security originate and how they became part of Swiss culture.

In How to Secure a Country Vitale explores this country’s national security measures by focusing on “matter-of-fact” types of instructions, protocols, bureaucracies, and clear-cut solutions which he visualizes in photographs, diagrams, and graphical illustrations. The result is a case study that can be used to explain the global context and the functioning of contemporary societies.

Essays by political scientists Jonas Hagmann (ETH Zurich), Philip Di Salvo (Università della Svizzera italiana), and Roland Bleiker (University of Queensland, Australia) provide an analysis of the structure of the Swiss security system and a view on the politics of photography. Lars Willumeit, curator and social anthropologist, will discuss attitudes, behaviors, and codes in 21st-Century statehood.

Published by Lars Müller Publishers, Edited by Salvatore Vitale, Lars Willumeit. With essays by Roland Bleiker, Philip Di Salvo, Jonas Hagmann, Salvatore Vitale, Lars Willumeit. Design: Offshore Studio, 21 × 27 cm, 8 ¼ × 10 ½ in, 280 pages, 209 illustrations, hardback — 2019, 978-3-03778-597-3

Salvatore Vitale (b. 1986, Palermo, Italy) is a Swiss-based visual artist and editor with a Master’s in Fine Arts at Zurich University of Arts (ZHdK). In his multi-layered artistic practice and research, Vitale’s work focuses on personal and social development, modern societies and power structures, visual politics and technological development, whilst making use of different media and multiple levels of visual narratives. His work has been awarded international distinctions, including the Swiss Arts Council grant (2015-2016), the PHmuseum Award Grant (2017), the Swiss Design Awards (2018), Foam Talent (2018), the Punctum Award (2018), and the Pro Helvetia Shanghai Research Grant (2019-2020).

Vitale’s work has been exhibited widely in museums and at photo festivals, with solo shows at the Swiss Foundation for Photography in Winterthur (2018), the Photoforum Pasquart in Biel (2017), the MOCAK Museum of Contemporary Art in Krakow (2018), and the Hamburg Triennale of Photography (2018). Other shows include the Foam Photography Museum in Amsterdam (2019), Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation (2019), OCAT Shanghai (2017), OCAT Shenzhen (2018), Fotodok in Utrecht (2018), Kibla Contemporary Art Space in Maribor (2019), T3 Photo Festival in Tokyo (2017) and Lianzhou Foto Festival (2018).

Vitale is a lecturer at the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts (HSLU) where he leads the Transmedia Storytelling program. He has led workshops worldwide and is a visiting lecturer at the Royal Academy of Arts (KABK), the Paris College of Arts (PCA), the University of South Wales (USW) and the University of the West of England, Bristol (UWE), to name a few.

Vitale is also the co-founder and editor-in-chief of YET magazine, a Swiss-based international photography magazine that focuses on the evolution of photography practice within the field of contemporary art.

To see more of Salvatore Vitale’s work visit — Website / Instagram / YET Magazine