Together. La vie ensemble.

By the waters of Leman I sat down and wept…

T. S. Eliot, The Waste Land

In 1922, when the famous modernist poet T. S. Eliot wrote The Waste Land, the First World War had devastated society, its bearings, ties and cohesion. To heal his woes, the future laureate of the Nobel Prize in Literature stayed in a hotel in Lausanne, on the shores of Lake Geneva, where he wrote part of this long poem that went on to become one of the 20th century’s most influential literary works. In its 433 lines, he shared his concerns about rebuilding the post-war world, evoking the “heap of broken images” that symbolised the conflict. Revealing the symptoms of an era, The Waste Land reflects upon an irrevocably transformed society’s capacity to recover the resourcefulness to live “together”.

To mark the centenary of this poem, Gregory Eddi Jones pays homage to T. S. Eliot by recomposing an experimental and poetic version in images, fittingly displayed in one of Vevey’s historic hotels. His creations open a dialogue with the poet’s distinctive fragmentary style of writing and myriad of literary references.

A century later, this famous poem is more relevant than ever. Wars and crises, whether geopolitical, economic, environmental, or even health-related, are shaking the very foundations of society and accentuating disparities. The eighth edition of the Images Vevey Biennial focuses on the sense of community and evokes manifold aspects of life together.

Unconscious Collectivity by Thomas Struth is an unprecedented monumental itinerary composed specifically for the town of Vevey. It serves as the common thread for this edition of the Biennial, as history, religion, science, urbanism, architecture, culture, and leisure all shape our collective unconscious and influence living in society.

Love is a universal feeling to share that may meld or dissolve. Marina Abramović & Ulay, a couple both on and off stage for ten years, symbolically marked the end of their relationship and their professional collaboration with a final performance on the Great Wall of China, walking the boundary where myths and reality meet. Some twenty years later, Marco Anelli caught the famous couple on camera, reunited for a few minutes one last time in the heart of the MoMA Museum of Modern Art in New York.

A family is a mirror of society. It is an intense microcosm where moments laden with emotions, memories and secrets are shared on a daily basis. Several artists taking part in this Biennial burrowed deep into the intimate family circle. Siân Davey reveals the special bonds she developed over the years with her daughters in their blended family; Alec Soth spent weeks wandering around Bogotá as he waited to finally be able to adopt his daughter and start a new life together; Stefanie Moshammer shares a moving expression of her complex relationship with her alcoholic mother; Paola Jiménez Quispe compiled a book to help her come to terms with mourning her father, brutally murdered in Peru when she was just a child; and, last but not least, Diana Markosian staged her own family saga along the lines of Santa Barbara, a popular American soap opera.

Every community has inclusive and exclusive values that determine its tolerance threshold and its taboos. Based on personal experience, Mahalia Taje Giotto shares the taxing identity journey for transgender people. Drawing on her childhood spent in a cult, Alba Zari divulges the disastrous consequences such an environment could impose on its followers. While the topic of women and criminality is on the fringes of public debate, it lies at the heart of Bettina Rheims’ project, which led her to meet with female offenders held in four detention centres in France.

Recent events, such as the ‘Brexit’ withdrawal of the UK from the EU, the assault on Capitol Hill in the US, and the stances taken by campaigning presidential candidates in France, demonstrate the extent of rising nationalism on the Western political stage. Mindful of the threat this trend poses to the cohesion of society, Spanish photographer Daniel Mayrit stepped into the shoes of a campaigning populist to reveal the communication strategies adopted by both right and left-wing demagogues.

On 24 February 2022, Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine once again demonstrated the vulnerability of international relations. Images Vevey evokes this unstable geopolitical context by presenting the work of two Ukrainian artists. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Boris Mikhailov wryly addressed the social realities and censorship in his country under the Soviet regime, whereas, in 2015, the young photographer Gera Artemova evoked the intangible omnipresent threat of war on everyday life with a series that turned out to be a harbinger of the tragic events of 2022.

How do you grow and evolve in a country that experienced oppression and colonisation? Two artists used skilful staging to revisit their respective countries’ past, their national history and heritage. On the one hand, Lebohang Kganye made cut-out characters reminiscent of shadow puppetry to relate various scenes from a science-fiction short story imagining the late Nelson Mandela’s return to South Africa; on the other, Gosette Lubondo created oneiric images to bring an abandoned village school to life again after the Belgian decolonisation of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Meanwhile, the Guatemalan Juan Brenner documented the social and human consequences of the Spanish colonisation of the American continent in the 16th century.

Life together is also about embracing multiculturalism. The Colombian artist Guadalupe Ruiz gave birth to her son in Switzerland. When he brought craftwork home from school, she took photos of it, juxtaposing his childlike ease of combining his origins with her own struggle to integrate as an adult. Culture mixing is shaping cities, as Mimi Mollica depicts in his portrayal of London’s vibrant and diversified East End. On the other side of the globe, Rachel Lopez took hundreds of selfies in Mumbai taxis, where their eclectic interior decor reflects the cultural diversity in India’s financial centre.

Fundamentally, towns and cities bring people together. Streets and squares are meeting places, and architecture influences interaction. Alexander Rosenkranz focused his project on the incredible Sicilian town of Gibellina, destroyed by an earthquake in 1968 and then rebuilt as a new utopian city. While the pandemic left the streets of The Hague deserted, Esther Hovers poetically repopulated her city by sticking silhouettes of current and former residents on her windows, thus weaving the past and present together.

The British artist Gillian Wearing launched an ambitious participative project to create a discourse between public space and private space. She pieced together hundreds of short clips filmed by volunteers worldwide of views from windows in their homes. In contrast, Emilie Gafner chose the inside of her building to project her own photos taken while exploring various urban landscapes. While travelling through Europe, Bertien van Manen was welcomed by various hosts and photographed their cherished photos dotted around their homes.

Travelling and discovering new horizons influence the way we live, “together”. That being said, a journey can also be a cosa mentale (a matter of mind). Without even leaving her office, Dominique Teufen fabricated extraordinary alpine landscapes with her copy machine, whereas Roger Eberhard escaped everyday life in Zurich by reappropriating the exotic landscapes on Swiss coffee creamer lids.

Since the dawn of tourism, Switzerland’s romantic natural vistas have made it a prime destination for painters, philosophers, and writers. Teju Cole, an American photographer and writer of Nigerian origin, has visited our country on several occasions and presents an affectionate picture-perfect view of Switzerland while also revealing some of its discrepancies. As for our natural resources and infrastructure for tourists, the Colombian photographer Sergio Pinzón came for a short stay in the canton of Valais and was struck by the discrepancy between the idealised image of Switzerland and the real picture. Denise Bertschi also reveals a Swiss paradox. Her project, presented in an idyllic garden, features the ideal and nostalgic haven Swiss soldiers recreated while stationed in the demilitarised zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea.

The joint initiative by Martin Parr & The Anonymous Project illustrates our society of mass consumption and entertainment through a tongue-in-cheek pairing of the famous photographer’s pictures with anonymous images from the last century. Whether you see minigolf as a sport or a pastime, Vincen Beeckman shares his passion for the game and is offering festivalgoers a real putting green designed specifically for Images Vevey. While Erik Kessels imagines an improbable life-size football match but without a football, Olivier Cablat reveals the darker side of this popular sport that arouses consuming passion both on and off the pitch. Meanwhile, Lucas Olivet documents the last days of an iconic Vaud café, an invaluable meeting place and hub of village life.

Digital technologies open up opportunities, innovation, and creation, and are changing the way society functions, while also posing new threats. The stakes for the community are sky-high. While Daniel Wallace warns about the worrying developments in artificial intelligence, Clemens Fischer entertainingly twists digital surveillance techniques with an analogue installation that engages the audience without them noticing. For Ryoji Ikeda, binary computer data becomes the basis for creating a truly collective and immersive experience at the core of the digital universe.

Climate change is gradually affecting our behaviour and the economy, and some natural habitats are suffering the consequences. Rahel Oberhummer witnessed melting permafrost in the canton of Grisons via images of abundant local microbes. Meanwhile, Michele Sibiloni documented the issues related to hunting migrating bush crickets in Uganda and the threat to this sizeable source of income should this species become extinct.

Life in a community has its ups and downs, its joys and sorrows. Deanna Dikeman tenderly presents the transience of life with a 27-year series of photos she took of her parents in front of their family home, every time she visited them, until they passed away. Olivier Suter visited cemeteries around the world in search of the graves of famous names in Western art from the Renaissance to the present day. Finally, the unfinished project by Camille Guerrero, a young artist who died tragically, questions posterity and artistic legitimacy.

The past constantly inspires the present with an artistic legacy that continues to permeate generations. Matthias Brunner presents a spectacular video installation highlighting the influence of Monet, Van Gogh, Cézanne and Impressionist painting on nascent French cinema of the 1920s and 1930s, while iconic shots by 20th-century photographers provide creative breakfast fuel for Anastasia Samoylova.

Collecting images, collage and assembly are all reflections of our diverse society. While Carmen Winant collected thousands of pages from magazines and books to assemble new editorial creations, the monumental piece created by Shirana Shahbazi superimposes solid colours, geometric shapes, and everyday objects onto the facade of one of Vevey’s buildings.

Finally, Andrew Norman Wilson blurred the boundaries between fiction and reality by reinterpreting Phil Collins’ world famous hit “In the Air Tonight”, a cult song for an entire generation. Presented at Images Vevey, his video installation will continue to feed the myth and shape festivalgoers’ collective memory.

It takes all sorts to make a world. In response to the “heap of broken images” the poet T. S. Eliot dolefully evoked in 1922, this edition of Festival Images Vevey proposes a heap of images as rich as they are inspiring, a visual experience spread across 50 installations celebrating the countless challenges of life “together”.


Stefano Stoll
Images Vevey