Global warming is not only melting glaciers. It is also shifting borders. In the Alps, the watershed forms the „natural“ national border – in the north, the water flows to Switzerland, in the south to Italy. On Testa Grigia (3480m), the watershed has shifted 150 meters in recent years due to a melting glacier near the Matterhorn. As a result, the Italian hut Rifugio Guide del Cervino is now mostly on Swiss territory. 

Alain Wicht is the man in Switzerland for border shifts. His work route is often inconvenient, the border points remote – but cooperation with neighboring countries is usually uncomplicated. That’s not the case on Testa Grigia: the Zermatt-Cervinia tourist region is a lucrative year-round ski area, the serviced hut a goldmine. Switzerland and Italy agree that the Refugio should remain Italian, but WHERE precisely the new, artificial border should run is controversial between the countries. The lack of clarity is a problem for the hut: it would have to be renovated, but where to put the building permit? 

The story „Not set in stone“ follows Alain Wicht to the Alps and his workplace at the Federal Office of Topography in Bern. Furthermore, it sheds light on another place where borders are shifting in Switzerland: the region around Lake Geneva, where a farmer has to cede his land to France because of the renaturation of the river Foron.  

The project questions the construct of fixed borders and shows what effects border shifts have on those living in these places. It was developed in cooperation with the Swiss journalist Brigitte Wenger, who wrote a reportage on the shifting of borders in Switzerland due to climate change or human intervention.

NZZ (09.10.2021)
ZEIT (01.12.2021)