New Look

Les Urbaines, a festival dedicated to discovery, invades Lausanne on 4, 5 and 6 December. A dozen venues throughout the city, as well as public spaces and even the lake, host performances, exhibitions and music meant to surprise, bewilder and delight. All events are free, including concerts and plays by international artists. But don’t come looking for big names, come to discover them instead. Swisster singles out a few musts.

‘Art in the city’ is the driving theme of this year’s edition of Les Urbaines, an emerging arts festival, now in its 13th year. For three days, from Friday 4 to Sunday 6, December (see programme) artists converge on Lausanne to tickle the urban landscape with “intriguing and fascinating artistic projects”.

The director, Patrick de Rham, explains that “Our aim is to reveal new creative tendencies. Our only rule is that we don’t want to do what other people are doing, so we go out of our way to secure artists individually”. The result can be one-shots, where an artist or a group makes the trip only for Les Urbaines.

“Being free gives us unbelievable freedom in choosing our artists because we don’t have to keep an eye on the box-office” says de Rham adding that “Innovation sometimes crops up where you least expect it”.

Fabien Ruf, Head of the Lausanne cultural services, indicates that “Les Urbaines also allows the public to discover the variety and dynamism of the city’s venues.”

Three performances (out of a total of more than 50) are the result of a workshop organized in June on this year’s theme and they don’t take place inside at all.

Skincraft, an acoustic cone ten meters long, the creation of an architect, a musician and a designer will amplify organ sounds in a courtyard surrounded by unsuspecting apartment buildings (Standard Deluxe, Saturday, 5 Dec at 6:30 pm).

The second performance is by Anne Rochat, a recent graduate of ECAL (Lausanne University of Art & Design) who will lumber through the Saturday market, her feet trapped in melting ice blocks, looking to amuse, but also to provoke (Riponne, Saturday, 5 Dec, 11 am).

Down by the lake, in Ouchy, a third performance will splash about, vying for everyone’s attention: Simon Deppierraz et Aurélien Collas, marooned on a boat, will be using every imaginable stratagem to be rescued from indifference (all three days of the festival).


HéHo by Deppierraz and Colas

Other attractions may be less spectacular, sometimes odd, but always exhilarating.

Mudac, Lausanne’s museum of contemporary design and applied arts, will be presenting two shows that relate, completely coincidentally, to its world-famous collection of glass art, although the way the French artist, Benjamin Seror, humorously questions the reasons for buying two vases that might break, or how the Italian-Spanish duo of Tiz-y-ana test our own resistance to the fear of glass breakage (respectively 7.30 and 8.30 pm on Friday and Saturday) is more than ironic.

Wearing nothing but her smile, the Spanish Maria AA will be inviting on-lookers to cover her with kisses (Arsenic, Friday and Saturday, 8.30 pm).

The Complete History of World Terrorism as We Know it Today + Solution is the title of the delirious production (in English) by the multidisciplinary Israeli Shelly Nadashi, the Scottish artist Kate V Robertson and the painter and visual artist Nicolas Party. The audience sits ia a cube while the show is performed aound it (Arsenic, every day, check different times).

For music buffs, there are lots of goodies in store. The velvety minimalism of the Berlin-based Canadian duo, New Look (Le Bourg, Friday, midnight) is a universe away from Action Beat, the alternative punk group from Bletchley in the UK (Romandie, Friday, 0.30).

On Saturday, the electro-acoustician Goodie Pal from the Faroe Islands off Denmark (Le Bourg, Saturday, 11 pm) is followed by mesmerizing arpeggios on the 12-string guitar of James Blackshaw (Le Bourg, Saturday, midnight).


James Blackshaw

And for those of you who are nostalgic of British eccentricity, Owl Project from Manchester spins sounds out of wood trunks being turned into chairs (Arsenic, Friday 10.30 pm and Sunday, 6 pm). The group has taken the lead as one of the major projects for the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad.


Owl Project

In sensitive resonance to the Renée Green retrospective on the theme of memory currently taking place at the Fine Arts Museum in Lausanne, nine artists participate in the project Can’t Forget What I Don’t Remember, including the cult White Circle Crime Club from the Netherlands who will be giving a live sound performance not to be missed (Circuit, Friday, 7.30 pm).

And children have not been forgotten: they will have their own magazine, START, and are invited to attend afternoon workshops at the Arsenic from 4 to 6 pm on Saturday and Sunday, where the interactive Chinese shadows by Korean artist Kiun Kim and dancer Caroline Lam’s playful dancing with video images can also entertain them.


Kiun Kim

“Most artistic events can only take a 30 percent risk on new-comers, but Les Urbaines is 100 percent discovery and 100 percent risk” says Patrick de Rham, suggesting that the festival doesn’t just discover talent, sometimes it even allows it to bloom.

This year, the Nestlé Art Foundation, that generously supports the event, has invited its 50 art partners from all over Switzerland to attend the festival. “We were amazed by the response and are particularly thrilled to be offering Les Urbaines the visibility that it deserves” says Rosmarie Richner the Foundation’s general secretary.

“At the end of the day, by subsidizing an en event like this one, we are enriching ourselves” Ms Richner concludes.


Caroline Lam

Michèle Laird, née Haffner, trained as a journalist, became an international arts administrator (visual arts and theatre), successively in Paris, New York and London before moving to Switzerland, where she now covers the art beat and presides several associations.

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