Musée International
de la Croix-Rouge et du Croissant-Rouge

Presse



The exhibition

A FRAGILE BALANCE | ÉQUILIBRES PRÉCAIRES
from 9 November 2022 to 12 March 2023


How do we keep our bearings in a world that’s changing at a dizzying speed? Where will we find new points of reference? What, ultimately, does our balance depend on?

As part of its Year of Mental Health (2022–2023), the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum has given carte blanche to three contemporary Swiss artists: Denise Bertschi, Nicolas Cilins and Nina Haab. Their unique productions, together with a sculpture by Olafur Eliasson, explore our physical and mental limits and make us mindful of our inner balance.

A FRAGILE BALANCE is an invitation to become fully present in the moment through a process of discovering, feeling, doing and letting go.

 


Press release

This new exhibition, which is the centrepiece of the Museum’s Year of Mental Health (2022–2023), features large-scale installations by three contemporary Swiss artists – Denise Bertschi (Aargau), Nicolas Cilins (Geneva) and Nina Haab (Ticino) – along with Geometric lines for horizons, a sculpture by Olafur Eliasson. Together, these pieces create a subtle, welcoming space for reflection.


Placing care front and centre

A FRAGILE BALANCE underscores the role of art as a powerful vehicle for caring for oneself and for others. The exhibits are not there to be contemplated. Rather, they offer an immersive experience that invites us to let go and feel fully present in the moment – to pause and reflect on our own limits and vulnerabilities, in all their diversity and complexity, and to take a moment to practise self-care.

For Elisa Rusca, the Museum’s chief curator and organizer of the exhibition, A FRAGILE BALANCE is akin to a balance pole: “The idea behind the exhibition is to highlight the tipping points between the near and the far, the individual and the collective, the private and the public, the bodily and the symbolic. It invites us to embrace the fragility of our balance.”

Despite the apparent diversity of their approaches, all three artists take collective memory as their starting point, exploring how we acknowledge and push beyond our limits through body movement (Cilins), neutrality (Bertschi) and the interplay between nature and culture (Haab).

  • Healing Routine by Nicolas Cilins: what body movements tell us about our relationship with ourselves and others

Healing Routine is an immersive installation and the result of a collective endeavour: Nicolas Cilins and a group of International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum employees attended weekly dance therapy workshops led by Suzanne Z’Grabben and Maroussia Ehrnrooth.
With this installation, which was filmed at the Museum, Cilins addresses mental health through body movement. Can dance become a tool for understanding oneself and others? Can art heal everyday life? Healing Routine explores the body as much as the surrounding architecture. During the creative process, everyone had the opportunity to delve within themselves while exploring other ways of inhabiting the museum space. The resulting installation, which is not without humour, questions artistic therapies, the place of the artist and the role of the museum.

“I’m particularly interested in fragile balances. With Healing Routine, I wanted to explore this idea in a uniquely local way, which is why I chose the Museum as the setting. Dance therapy was a way to observe both what happens when people come together and what these coming-togethers do for or say about the participants.” – Nicolas Cilins (b. 1985)

 

  • One Natural Border by Nina Haab: crossing natural barriers

The limits of reality and the intersection between collective and personal memory lie at the heart of Nina Haab’s artistic practice. She spent several years exploring well-known sites in the Swiss Alps: the Devil’s Bridge, the Gotthard Pass and the Nufenen Pass. These iconic sites serve a dual purpose, acting as both natural barriers and passageways.

One Natural Border is the culmination of several years of filming in different seasons, tracking the opening and closing of mountain passes. On the two large screens, images of untamed natural landscapes scroll by, to a soundtrack of voices speaking different languages. Here, these dialects – created and preserved by the existence of natural barriers – meet in a ritual as old as time itself: placing the common good at the centre of collective action.

“In One Natural Border, the two large screens stand close together, creating an immersive space – as if we were stepping into the place where two cultures meet. The experience invites us to reflect on ourselves, our origins and our affinities. Which side are we more familiar with: north or south?” – Nina Haab (b. 1985, Bellinzona)

 

  • State Fiction by Denise Bertschi: exploring the limits of archival materials

The notion of borders and the role of neutrality in the construction of the Swiss identity narrative are central to Denise Bertschi’s work. From her point of view, being neutral is a complex and fragile state. In State Fiction: Neutral Only on the Outside, she focuses on the role of Switzerland in the neutral military mission to observe the ceasefire between the two Koreas. Following her travels in the region, she immersed herself in the Korea collection of the Library Am Guisanplatz in Bern, consulting images and films captured by Swiss military personnel. She discovered unexpected photographs of everyday life: personnel eating meals and meeting local communities, as well as pictures of the surrounding landscapes. Through a film, a photography book and a series of flags, State Fiction exploits this archival material while simultaneously questioning its limits.
Bertschi continued her exploration for the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum. Working with historian Daniel Palmieri, she delved into the ICRC archives. There, she discovered objects and first-hand accounts from delegate Jean Courvoisier, who was active in Korea in 1952. These items, which are presented in a display case, document the complex, multifaceted relationship between personal narratives and collective history.

“State Fiction questions the principle of neutrality by exploring the balance and fragility of the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea. The creation of this hard border between the two countries is a matter of established fact. But history and visual culture show that, on the question of balance, there is no absolute answer. That’s why I’m interested in exploring a variety of different narratives, each of which necessarily reflects prevailing geopolitical tensions.” – Denise Bertschi (b. 1983, Aarau)


The three installations are presented alongside a sculpture by Olafur Eliasson: a glass sphere, partially silvered and painted, with thin lines cut out along its surface. When viewers peer into the sphere, the geometry is reflected again and again in the mirror finish that coats the inner surface. Geometric lines for horizons takes us into a mysterious world without limits.


A highlight of the Museum’s Year of Mental Health

Through A FRAGILE BALANCE and its Year of Mental Health (2022–2023), which began in September, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum invites us to re-examine our vulnerabilities, touching on a long-standing issue in the humanitarian sector that has risen to the top of the public agenda in recent times. In the forthcoming programming cycle, the Museum will work with academics, artists and humanitarian practitioners to explore ideas and approaches we can apply in our day-to-day lives.

For Pascal Hufschmid, the Museum’s executive director, this approach is a concrete expression of what it means to be a hub serving the local community: “By selecting this theme for the coming year, we are reaffirming our role as an open, welcoming space that brings communities together, invites conversations about mental health and helps break the stigma surrounding it. Above all, it is an exercise in turning ideas into deeds: we want to transform knowledge into action and be an organization that learns with its visitors.”

While it will not be possible to cover every angle, the Museum will seek to explore different avenues and give space to diverse voices on this complex subject, inviting visitors to reflect on the notion of care in what, for many, is an unconventional setting. For its forthcoming programming cycle, the Museum will deliver mental-health first-aid courses for the public, hold a series of events on mental health in the humanitarian sector and beyond, offer “emergency yoga” classes, run guided tours with two experts in emotion, and develop a practical guide on kindness through a co-creation process (for full details, visit redcrossmuseum.ch/en).


New initiative: Community Sundays

As a hub serving the local community, the Museum is once again aligning its actions with its words through the new Community Sundays initiative.

On the first Sunday of each month, visitors will be able to buy additional admission tickets. The Museum will donate these tickets to the Geneva Red Cross, which will then redistribute them among its beneficiaries. In time, the initiative will be expanded to include other local non-profits. By putting admission tickets “on tab” in this way, visitors will be doing their bit to bring culture within everyone’s reach.

On Community Sundays, there will be a wealth of activities and surprises in store for visitors, from yoga classes and special tours to meet-the-author events, local produce stalls and more.

The Museum will hold its first Community Sunday on 6 November.

Programme:

  • 11 am: yoga class with Donna Williams, Regional Head of Resource Mobilization at the ICRC and founder of emergencyoga. 
  • 2 pm: participatory workshop and discussion on compassion with Patricia Cenardas and Olga Klimecki, researchers at the Swiss Centre for Affective Sciences (University of Geneva). 
  • 3:30 pm: talk and book signing with Pierre Hazan to mark the release of his new book, Négocier avec le diable : La médiation dans les conflits armés (published by Éditions Textuel).

 

Download the press release


Carte blanche given to

Artist and researcher Denise Bertschi (b. 1983, Aarau)

is a PhD candidate at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) and HEAD – Genève. Her work critically examines Switzerland’s relationship with the rest of the world, in particular through collective memory and cultural myths. In 2020, she was awarded the Manor Art Award, and her work has been exhibited in Switzerland and abroad (at the Aargauer Kunsthaus, the Swiss Art Awards, the Landesmuseum Zurich and the Centre Culturel Suisse in Paris).


Nicolas Cilins (b. 1985)

is a conceptual video, performance and installation artist. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in visual arts from the Villa Arson, Nice, and a diploma in performance art from HEAD – Genève. His works, which are often created in collaboration with individuals and communities, have been shown in numerous museums and festivals, including the Berlin International Film Festival, the Moscow Planetarium, the MAC/VAL in Paris, the Museum of Fine Arts Bern and the Bâtie-Festival de Genève.


Nina Haab (b. 1985, Bellinzona)

holds a Master’s degree in visual arts from HEAD – Genève. Her work has been exhibited in numerous solo and group exhibitions in Switzerland and beyond, including at the Kunstmuseum Olten, the GAM Torino and the Kunst-Werke Studiolo in Berlin. In 2012, she received a Swiss Art Award in Basel. She was shortlisted for the Prix Mobilière for young Swiss artists in 2019, and she was awarded a grant from the Abraham Hermanjat Foundation in 2020. Haab’s works feature in the collections of the Contemporary Art Fund of the City of Geneva (FMAC), the Fondazione Archivio Fotografico Roberto Donetta in Corzoneso, and the Musée Jenisch in Vevey.


Installation by

Olafur Eliasson

His works explore the relevance of art in the world at large. Born in 1967, Eliasson grew up in Iceland and Denmark, where he studied from 1989 to 1995 at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts. In 1995, he moved to Berlin and founded Studio Olafur Eliasson, which today comprises a large team of craftsmen, architects, archivists, researchers, administrators, cooks, programmers, art historians and specialized technicians. Since 1997, his wide-ranging solo shows – featuring installations, paintings, sculptures, photography and film – have appeared in major museums around the globe.


Media Contact

North Communication

Romaine Travelletti
T +41 79 580 73 36 
romaine@north-communication.ch


Ressourcen der Ausstellung

Nicolas Cilins, Healing Routine, 2022, video still 1. © Julie Bellard. International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum

Nicolas Cilins, Healing Routine, 2022, video still 2. © Julie Bellard. International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum

Nicolas Cilins, Healing Routine, 2022, video still 3. © Julie Bellard. International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum

Portrait Nicolas Cilins. © Tien Nguyen The. International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum

Nina Haab, ONE NATURAL BORDER, 2022, film still. ©Nina Haab. International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum

Nina Haab, ONE NATURAL BORDER, 2022, film still rencontre. ©Nina Haab. International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum

Nina Haab, ONE NATURAL BORDER, 2022, film still fin. ©Nina Haab. International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum

Portrait Nina Haab. © Vincent Fischer 2019. International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum

© Denise Bertschi, ICRC Archives cigar boxes, 2022. International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum

© Denise Bertschi, ICRC Archives cigar boxes, 2022. International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum

© Denise Bertschi, ICRC Archives folder, 2022. International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum

© Denise Bertschi, ICRC Archives foto envelopes, 2022. International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum

© Denise Bertschi, ICRC Archives fotos, 2022. International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum

Denise Bertschi, State Fiction. © Tristan Savoy (CCS Paris). International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum

Denise Bertschi, State Fiction. © Tristan Savoy (CCS Paris). International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum

Denise Bertschi, State Fiction Book cover. © NASK. International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum

Denise Bertschi, State Fiction Book interior. © NASK. International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum

Denise Bertschi, State Fiction Book interior. © NASK. International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum

Portrait Denise Bertschi. © Céline Burnand. International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum

Olafur Eliasson, Geometric Lines for Horizons, 2014. © Jens Ziehe 2015. International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum

Olafur Eliasson, Geometric Lines for Horizons, 2014. © Jens Ziehe 2015. International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum

Olafur Eliasson, Geometric Lines for Horizons, 2014. © Jens Ziehe 2015. International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum



Annual theme

Mental health to guide the Museum’s 2022–2023 programming

The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum has selected mental health as the guiding theme for the coming year. Alongside numerous partners from the worlds of humanitarian action, culture and research, the Museum will explore ideas and techniques that can be applied in day-to-day life. For its forthcoming programming cycle, it will give carte blanche to various contemporary artists, host co-creation projects, deliver mental-health first-aid courses for the public, hold a series of events on mental health in the humanitarian sector, offer “emergency yoga” classes, and run guided tours with two experts in emotion. In doing so, the Museum will reaffirm its role as an open, welcoming space that invites conversations about mental health, brings communities together and transforms knowledge into action.

The launch of the Year of Mental Health (2022–2023) coincides with the publication of Ten ideas for a feminist and inclusive museum, a compendium of the lessons learned from the Museum’s Year of Gender & Diversity (2021–2022). The document, published online and developed in partnership with Rebecca Amsellem, is the first in a new, aptly named “toolkit” series.
 


Press release

The Museum aims to be a space for discussion, debate and creative thinking on what is happening within the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, the cultural scene and day-to-day life. In keeping with this aim, every year, it selects an important societal issue as the guiding theme for its programming cycle, using its exhibitions, events, publications and online content as a way to learn with and alongside visitors and the general public. “Whenever people are debating important issues in wider society, we should be talking about them at the Museum, too,” said Pascal Hufschmid, executive director of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum.
 

Re-examining our vulnerabilities

What can the Museum do to promote well-being and break the stigma surrounding mental illness? A long-time issue in the humanitarian sector, mental health has risen to the top of the public agenda over the past two years under the combined influence of the COVID-19 pandemic and the climate emergency. The Museum is playing its part by inviting experts from all walks of life to share practical insights. The Year of Mental Health will place the issue of care – for oneself and for others – front and centre. And while it will not be possible to cover every angle, the Museum will seek to explore different avenues and give space to diverse voices on this complex subject.

Full details of the upcoming cycle, which will build on the principles of collective intelligence and collaborative action, are available on the Museum’s website (redcrossmuseum.ch).


Highlights include:

Mental-health first-aid courses

  • What: Course  leading to a certificate of completion delivered by ensa, a mental-health first-aid initiative by non-profit organization Pro Mente Sana (ensa swiss, fee-based course, held in French).
  • When: Sessions take place over two consecutive Saturdays at the Museum (9 am - 12:30 pm, 1:30 pm - 5 pm). The course will run on 8 and 15 October 2022, 4 and 11 March, and 3 and 10 June 2023.
  • Registration: www.ensa.swiss/en/first-aiders/course/

Emergencyoga

  • What: A chance to feel present in your body, mind and spirit, and to focus on the here and now. Classes run at the Museum by Donna Williams, Founder of Emergencyoga and Regional Head of Resource Mobilization ICRC (combined offer: class + exhibition visits, suitable for all levels, all classes held in English and French).
  • When: The first Sunday of each month at 11 am, starting on 2 October.
  • Registration: www.redcrossmuseum.ch/en/ and www.emergencyoga.org

Mental health in the humanitarian sector

  • What: Multidisciplinary events led by Valérie Gorin, head of learning at the Geneva Centre of Humanitarian Studies (free entry, in English).
  • When: Five 90-minute evening events held at the Museum between December 2022 and June 2023.
  • Registration: Opens soon at www.redcrossmuseum.ch/en/

Emotion-focused guided tours of the permanent exhibition

  • What: Insights into the Museum’s permanent exhibition from researchers at the Swiss Centre for Affective Sciences (University of Geneva), in conversation with humanitarian practitioners and the public.
  • When: Sunday 6 November, 4 December and 7 May.
  • Registration: Opens soon at www.redcrossmuseum.ch/en/

 

New initiative: Community Sundays

As a hub serving the local community, the Museum is once again aligning its actions with its words through the new Community Sundays initiative.

On the first Sunday of each month, visitors will be able to buy additional admission tickets. The Museum will donate these tickets to the Geneva Red Cross, which will then redistribute them among its beneficiaries. In time, the initiative will be expanded to include other local non-profits. By putting admission tickets “on tab” in this way, visitors will be doing their bit to bring culture within everyone’s reach.

On Community Sundays, there will be a wealth of activities and surprises in store for visitors, from yoga classes and special tours to meet-the-author events, local produce stalls and more.

The Museum will hold its first Community Sunday on 6 November.

Programme:

  • 11 am: yoga class with Donna Williams, Regional Head of Resource Mobilization at the ICRC and founder of emergencyoga. 
  • 2 pm: participatory workshop and discussion on compassion with Patricia Cenardas and Olga Klimecki, researchers at the Swiss Centre for Affective Sciences (University of Geneva). 
  • 3:30 pm: talk and book signing with Pierre Hazan to mark the release of his new book, Négocier avec le diable : La médiation dans les conflits armés (published by Éditions Textuel).

 

Download the press release.
 


Media Contact

North Communication

Romaine Travelletti
T +41 79 580 73 36 
romaine@north-communication.ch



The exhibition

Who cares?
Gender and humanitarian action

From 31 May to 9 October 2022, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum (MICR) will be taking a fresh look at the history of humanitarian action through the lens of gender in an exhibition called Who cares? This critical exploration of stereotypes in representations of humanitarianism aims to shed light on the complex lived experience of humanitarian workers past and present, and the diverse paths that brought them there. The exhibition is the result of a unique partnership between the MICR and the University of Geneva, with the support of the Swiss National Science Foundation. An open day will be held on Saturday, 4 June, to mark the show’s opening.
 


The exhibition in figures

  • Over 5 years of research
  • More than 300 objects
  • About twenty institutional and private lenders
  • About twenty academic case studies supported by the research of our partner University of Geneva

Press release

“Take care” is a deceptively simple phrase that evokes the principle of humanity and underpins all humanitarian action. In Who cares?, the MICR’s latest exhibition, a question that is often intended derisively is instead an earnest enquiry into who tends to people’s wounds and works to meet their needs. Who actually cares, in every sense of the word?

WHO CARES?, produced in partnership with the Institute for Ethics, History and the Humanities at the University of Geneva, invites visitors to consider humanitarian action through the lens of gender and diversity. The exhibition offers a fresh look at the experience of people who have been largely overlooked by history and encourages visitors to re-examine their own perceptions of humanitarian workers and of those who receive care, through a broad selection of objects and accounts that have been assembled and presented together for the first time.

 

Restoring forgotten figures in humanitarian history

Who embodies the world of care? In Western visual history, the provider of care has often been accorded characteristics perceived as feminine, such as devotion, attentiveness, sympathy, empathy and compassion. Nurses are potent symbols of the provision of relief and healing, and the nurse seated at a wounded soldier’s bedside became a prevalent stereotype starting in the late 19th century. However, this maternal or angelic imagining of the female humanitarian has all too often been restricted to white, Western women from privileged backgrounds.

This new exhibition draws from the history of medicine and gender, visual culture and the ethics of care to reveal recurring stereotypes in how humanitarians are represented, often based on rigid gender roles. Such representations, which divorce action and leadership from care and compassion, limit our understanding of humanitarians’ lived experience and fail to account for the complexity of their work.

WHO CARES? provides keys to understanding how the history of humanitarian action has largely been written from a male point of view. But history can also be a tool for building a more inclusive and, thus, democratic society. As researchers Dolores Martín Moruno, Brenda Lynn Edgar and Marie Leyder at the University of Geneva’s Institute for Ethics, History and the Humanities note: “WHO CARES? aims to re-examine the history of humanitarian action by focusing on how those providing care have been rendered invisible. Whether in terms of their lived experience, knowledge and technical know-how, or in terms of the power dynamics at play, these issues get to the heart of contemporary social questions. Debates around gender, ethnicity, class and sexual orientation are more ubiquitous than ever.

That deconstructive approach underpins the exhibition’s constellation-style layout. For MICR curators Claire FitzGerald and Elisa Rusca, the exhibition “is an ecosystem made up of a large number of stories and objects – from textiles and medical instruments to photographs and film footage – that together embody the rich variety of care providers’ experience and the diversity of humanitarian work. We have created a new form of multi-layered exhibition space that invites visitors to step away from dominant preconceptions and open themselves up to other points of view.

 

Advancing research and sharing it with the general public

WHO CARES? is supported by a grant from the Swiss National Science Foundation’s Agora project, which aims to share research with the public. Dialogue, debate and public participation are given pride of place in the exhibition, which features spaces for reading and reflection.

Produced in partnership with the University of Geneva, WHO CARES? is emblematic of changes that began at the Museum before the pandemic, as the MICR strives to foster communication among the worlds of humanitarianism, culture and research, for the benefit of a wide audience.

The project also provides a new perspective on the Museum’s permanent exhibition. A series of questions have been added to the displays to encourage visitors to consider The Humanitarian Adventure through the lens of gender – questions to which WHO CARES? provides possible answers.

The MICR is deeply invested in including diverse voices in its programming as a way of better reflecting sea changes not only within the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement but also in the cultural sphere and in everyday life. Who cares? was developed as part of the Museum’s first annual theme, Gender and Diversity, launched in September 2021.

In the words of the MICR’s director, Pascal Hufschmid: “Sharing cutting-edge, gender-oriented research on humanitarian action, conducted right here in Geneva, in an accessible and inclusive manner means inviting humanitarian workers and the general public to re-examine the history of humanitarianism and how it is represented today.
 


Introduction to the exhibition

Who cares? This question, often intended derisively, can be interpreted in at least two other ways. Who feels genuinely affected and moved by a particular issue? And who provides care to others by working to meet their needs?

Here, the question “who cares?” and its various meanings are an invitation to take a fresh look at the history of humanitarian action and how it is represented today. Rigid gender roles are commonplace, with men associated with action and leadership while women supply compassion and care. Yet those stereotypes are belied across time by the complexity of humanitarian work and the experience of those engaged in it.

By presenting a broad selection of objects and little-known accounts spanning more than a century, this exhibition invites us to consider humanitarian action in all its diversity. Inspired by social justice movements seeking to counter racial and sexual discrimination, it shines a spotlight on figures who have long been excluded from humanitarian history.

Together – informed by the latest developments in the history of knowledge, health care, gender and emotions as well as visual and material culture studies – we can all contribute to a paradigm shift.

WHO CARES? is a co-production of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum and the University of Geneva, with the support of the Swiss National Science Foundation.
 


The chapters of the exhibition

  • Who makes the effort to take care of others?
  • What can we do to meet people’s needs?
  • What methods and tools – objects, actions or emotions – can we use to provide care?
  • “Everything we do to maintain, continue and repair our world so that we can live in it as well as possible.”

Press relations

North Communication

Romaine Travelletti
Tel. +41 79 580 73 36
romaine@north-communication.ch


Ressourcen der Ausstellung

"Who cares?" poster © Flavia Cocchi

Unknown, Japanese Red Cross Society nurse’s boots, Japan, 1940–1950. International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum. © Zoé Aubry

Unknown, Cup, United Kingdom, undated. International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum. © Zoé Aubry

Unknown, Nurse’s cape, Belgium, 1940–1945. International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum. © Zoé Aubry

© Aline Bovard Rudaz

© Aline Bovard Rudaz

© Aline Bovard Rudaz



The exhibition

TO HEAL A WORLD
160 Years of Photography from the Collections of the Red Cross

For its latest exhibition, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum (MICR) will tap into a unique yet little-known photographic heritage to explore humanitarian imagery and how it is perceived. TO HEAL A WORLD, scheduled to run from 16 November 2021 to 24 April 2022, will feature over 600 photographs drawn from the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement collections. To mark the opening, the MICR will hold an open day on Saturday, 20 November.

From 16 November 2021 to 24 April 2022 at the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum,
from 4 July to 25 September 2022 at the Rencontres internationales de la photographie d'Arles.


The exhibition in figures

  • over 600 photographs
  • 200 photographers
  • 4 collections
  • 13 agencies
  • 18 national Red Cross and Red Crescent societies

Press release

Humanitarian images entered people’s daily lives over a century ago and are now a fixture in today’s news. Such images often convey a sense of immediacy and certainty, setting a scene that allows for only one interpretation. Viewers think they fully understand the event in question without considering what lies just outside the frame. But the reality on the ground is always more complex than its representation, which is by nature merely a fragment.

 

Tapping into a rich photographic heritage

TO HEAL A WORLD presents, in a variety of ways, more than 600 images dating from 1850 to the present. They include both public images used to communicate about humanitarian crises and more confidential ones, once reserved for internal use.

The works were carefully selected over the course of two years from a highly diverse yet little-known corpus of photos: the collections of the MICR, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).

The broad scope of perspectives on display alerts viewers to the complexity of humanitarian work beyond the lens. A number of images were captured by well-known photographers – such as Werner Bischof, Susan Meiselas and Henri Cartier-Bresson from Magnum Photos agency – while others are the work of people employed by the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement or people directly affected by crises. The exhibition ends with a selection of personal photographs collected from migrants by Alexis Cordesse.

TO HEAL A WORLD was developed in association with the Rencontres d’Arles, an annual photography festival that will host the exhibition in 2022.

 

New ways of interpreting newsworthy images

TO HEAL A WORLD delivers a methodical analysis of the codes that underpin humanitarian imagery. Visitors are encouraged to view each image with a critical eye: where was it taken, what story does it tell, and what does it not show? In exploring the intentionality behind each work, the exhibition sets out a visual grammar of humanitarian action that can help to unlock meaning.

For Nathalie Herschdorfer, the exhibition curator, TO HEAL A WORLD underscores the utilitarian role of photography and what these images have to say about the modern era: “Much of what we know about the past, about history, has come to us through written texts. Yet we cannot trace the history of humanitarian action without taking into account the history of photography itself. The ICRC was founded in 1864, only 25 years after the invention of photography in 1839 – their destinies are inextricably linked. Today more than ever, humanitarian action without imagery is unthinkable.

The MICR asks a fundamental question: how does humanitarian action concern all of us, here and now? This exhibition points to one possible answer. For Pascal Hufschmid, Executive Director of the MICR, who conceived the exhibition: “TO HEAL A WORLD is designed to shine a light on a rich photographic heritage at the heart of international Geneva. The exhibition prompts us to reconsider how we look at images of the conflicts and natural disasters that we see every day in the news. In the humanitarian sphere, an image is never worth a thousand words.


Curation

Nathalie Herschorfer
 

Direction

Pascal Hufschmid
 

Scenography

Kläfiger muséographie
 

Visual Identity

Notter & Vigne
 


Partners

The exhibition is a joint production by the MICR and the Rencontres d’Arles photography festival. The works presented here are from the collections of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum (MICR), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).

The exhibition received funding from the Swiss Confederation, the Republic and Canton of Geneva and the City of Geneva.


Introduction to the exhibition

Humanitarian action has been represented in photographs for nearly 160 years. Ever since the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) was founded in 1863, photography – invented only a few decades earlier, in 1839 – has served to document the situation on the ground and reveal the human dramas that unfold there. The power of images is undeniable. Whether taken by humanitarian workers or professionals sent into the field, photos play a key role in raising funds, recruiting volunteers and keeping the public informed.

To HEAL A WORLD lifts the veil on the vast photography collections held by the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. The collections include both public images intended for mass communication and confidential ones for internal use. Big names from the prestigious Magnum Photos agency can be found alongside countless anonymous photo-takers. All aim to draw attention and spark emotion by revealing the suffering of the innocent: refugees, prisoners of war and other people in distress.

Photographs serve to inform, but they also affect how we understand the events they depict. They make us think we understand a situation, forgetting what might lie just outside the frame and the filters used on the image. How we interpret them depends on culture, context and labelling. The human gaze, whether the photographer’s or the viewer’s, is never neutral. Moreover, a photograph’s meaning can change over the years. What was considered indisputable at one time may not be so self-evident today.

By guiding us through a unique historical collection, To HEAL A WORLD encourages us to reflect on how we perceive humanitarian imagery – both past and present.


The chapters of the exhibition

  • Rallying
  • Showing
  • Bearing witness
  • Reassessing
  • Sharing

Media Contact

North Communication

Romaine Travelletti
Tel. +41 79 580 73 36
romaine@north-communication.ch


Ressourcen der Ausstellung



L'exposition


Communiqué de presse


Partenaires


Introduction au parcours de l'exposition


Relations presse


Ressourcen der Ausstellung

© Laure Rogemond (Paris)