Archives contaminées


This series of dypticals is based on photographic and radiographic reproductions of documents held in the Public Health Department’s archives. These documents have been reworked in such a way as to transfer passages of text onto an X-ray. The archives themselves are X-rayed, revealing the hidden intentions behind the seemingly neutral language of bureaucracy.
The series questions the economic reasons put forward by the Swiss state for allowing foreign workers into the country (the “need for workforce”).
In dialogue with the images, two former seasonal workers who underwent health checks in Brig, Manuel Leite and Fernando Redol, offer their testimony in an audio piece coupled with a video transcription. They describe the reception conditions on their arrival in Switzerland, and the mandatory medical examination that will determine their future. Adding to these narratives their opinions on the archiving of documents concerning them directly, and on the perpetuation of body control through state archiving. In a duty to pass on a history that cannot be written exclusively by doctors, employers or researchers, the project aims to reintegrate the voices of the people concerned as the experts of their stories.

Medical Borders is the result of a multidisciplinary research project at the Institut de Recherche en Arts Visuels (IRAV) at Ecole de design et haute école d’art du Valais (EDHEA).

Coordinated by Prof. Jelena Martinovic, with the participation of artists Maria Iorio & Raphaël Cuomo and Laurence Rasti, architects Lucia Bernini and Jonas Heller, and researcher and curator Andrea Bagnato, the exhibition explores the relationship between migration, work and public health policy in Switzerland.

Among the extensive holdings of the Archives de l’Etat du Valais are seven boxes deposited in the holdings of the Service cantonal de la santé publique. Labelled “Frontier lung checks on foreigners”, they contain medical records and X-rays of several hundred workers who immigrated to Switzerland in the second half of the 20th century.


Exhibition views © Laura Morier-Genoud for Medical Borders

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