Where photography becomes an experience
Every two years, the lakeside city of Vevey throws a one-of-its-kind event. Festival Images Vevey is an open-sky visual art biennale that turns photography into an experience. The entire city is decked out with arresting displays: buildings covered with monumental swaths of canvas printed with iconic photographs by some of the greatest living photographers sway in the wind, while unexpected venues like church naves, abandoned metal workshops or lakeside beaches become the backdrops for ingenious new projects.
For three weeks, Vevey becomes alive with images, living up to its genius urban branding of “Vevey, City of Images” that was devised in the 1990s to arrest its economic decline and decay. Coupled with the Grand Prix de la Photo on alternate, odd, years, the festival showcases the more audacious frontiers in photo from around the world. The festival’s credo, says director Stefano Stoll, is to surprise. Since 2008, attendance has increased exponentially, with 10’000 visitors in 2014.
For its fifth biennale edition, Festival Images applies the theme of ‘Immersion’ that invites participation: walk on water (Leuvrey), ‘reveal’ photos with buckets of water (Gil), fish them out of the lake (Delille), dare 3D (Mocafico), tread on ocean floors (Faithfull), slip into a holiday landscape (Parr), listen to digital rain (Collishaw), guess what’s missing (Schirner), sleep in an expo (Soth), ease around a fence (Lutz), chuckle with Winter. But immersion is also meant metaphorically, and with artists from 15 different countries, it is a sweeping statement that reveals the artistic and cultural power of photography, just when we thought that it had been swallowed up by selfies and the web.
Plunge, walk, dive, peer and gaze, a selection from the 75 site-specific projects, each one a different experience.
ECAL/Marvin Leuvrey, Revelations
Walk on photographs by Leuvrey buoyed in the lake water in a design by fellow ECAL/Ecole cantonale d’art de Lausanne students. This is a typical Images invention where the setting along Quai Maria Belgia is almost as important as the art work itself.
In July 2016, the Italian artist Edoardo Delille was invited by the city of Vevey to photograph 40 local bathers jumping into the lake, then swimming underwater. See their joyous leaps around Fountain du Sauveur, or fish them out of the lake on Quai Perdonnet.
A tireless explorer of various techniques, Stephen Gill plunged his camera in water before making pictures of residents of Dudelange. In a nice twist, water must be splashed on the varnish-covered pictures propped around a fountain Jardin du Rivage to be ‘revealed’.
To pay tribute to the Mexican great lady of black and white photography, the picture of a since-felled plane tree taken in Vevey in 2009 is posted on the façade of the Municipal Library and faces her famous Pajaros series on birds printed on floating fabrics placed in the trees opposite on Quai Perdonnet
Portraits of Swiss visual artists, architects and designers reveal their creativity and imagination: each participant had 30 minutes to create a form with wood blocks of various shapes and sizes. The exhibition and book are made in association with the Swiss Museum of Games, La Tour-de-Peilz.
Martin Parr, a British photographer who gained international fame for his tongue-in-cheek and candy-coloured portrayal of mass tourism, gets a double billing at Images Festival: Think of Switzerland, a giant close-up of a tourist admiring the mountains in Zermatt on the facade of the BCV opposite the train station, and You and Martin are a Pai(i)rr, at Salle des Castillo in which visitors insert their own portraits.
The saturated colours and elaborately-styled portraits by the French duoPierre et Gilles have found favour with numerous pop stars for their record covers, like Boy George and Nina Hagen. Exotic and frequently homoerotic, they are modern-day icons emptied of religious overtones. Dans le port du Havre adorns Vevey’s former prison, À la fenêtre, a tribute to Montreux Jazz Festival’s 50-year anniversary, covers a façade of the Hôtel des Trois Couronnes.
For her series Water Ballet (1980-1981), the legendary American photographer staged an underwater choreography with her friends, including Cindy Sherman, in direct reference to the Post-War Hollywood water ballets. In the backlit windows of Vitrines du Rivage, the effect is like peering through a porthole.
‘Young British Artist’ Matt Collishaw, renowned for his disturbing cultivation of the aesthetics of cruelty, comes to Vevey with two significant works of very different natures: a digital rain that recreates the Velázquez/Bacon inspired portrait of Pope Innocent X in the nave of Sainte-Marie Church and In Camera, window boxes of scenes of crimes, in the Museum/Confrérie des Vignerons.
Swiss photographer Renate Buser turns Nestle’s headquarters inside out. The facade of the building is covered by a giant canvas (the largest of this year’s edition) of the inside hall, adding to the miraculous lightness of the world-famous Jean Tschumi-designed building.
In 2013, the two artists gathered a great number of anonymous black and white images found in flea markets around China. Through a repeated process of colourisation, cutting, collage, digitalisation and printing, they connect these images together and create new stories at the Dépendance de l’Hôtel des Trois Couronnes
One the most talented Swiss photographers of his generation casts an uncompromising eye on the undercurrents of wealth, power and hypocrisy. In an offsite installation, he invites Switzerland to look at itself in the mirror of immigration. Commissioned and presented by Théâtre de Vidy in Lausanne, 14 September – 3 December
The groundbreaking video creations riddled with artistic references by the Chicago-born and California-based group OK GO have a phenomenal You Tube following (50 million views). The videos are shown in the immersive environment of La Ferblanterie near Nestle’s new Nest, completely revamped for the occasion.
Vevey’s famous Photography School (CEPV) presents an ambitious exhibition on the theme of utopia, Des Mondes Meilleurs (Better Worlds) with highly stylized proposals by 20 students, a great opportunity to get a feel for the next generation of photographers. On view Espace Doret, CEPV, avenue Nestlé 1 during the festival, plus from 3 to 12 November.