Introducing Younès Klouche, Romain Mader & Cécilia Poupon. Three students who have each attended the renowned École cantonale d’art de Lausanne. We catch up with them to talk about the parties, the lecturers and the lasting impression the university has had on them.
The reputation of ECAL is renowned worldwide and WB have featured many of the students and graduates in the past. Do you feel this reputation is deserved and how has it benefited you?
YK: One of the first things I learned at ECAL is to finish what I start. Each semester we begin several new projects and at the end we show everything in its final form; edited, printed, binded, framed… So after one or two years you already have a lot to show and submit. The form of a project is equally valued as its concept and the quality of the finitions are very important. I think it gives credibility to very young artists and altogether, a great reputation for the school.
RM: I think that the reputation of the school is renowned due to the hard work of the students but mainly it’s the way the school present its students that makes it a great school. It’s a quite small school, with a lot of students in every year and departments, leaving the school a wonderful choice of talent to pick to present in publications and exhibitions/events. After saying that I think it’s what does every school or every business. They never show the worst students or the worst products/works. Every year there is a quite grand outcome of amazing works, the students, as said before, work really their ass off to be on the deadline. It makes them really professional and this reputation is useful for future employer that know what to expect from a graduate from there.
CP: Yes I think the reputation is well deserved, it is in my opinion both due to the high expectations regarding the quality of the works we produce, as well as an effective communication of these works by ECAL. I’m not sure I took benefit from the reputation itself, or maybe not yet, but from what I learn there for sure.
How was the interview process, what work did you show?
YK: For the preparation year, I know that technical abilities are not considered a factor to pass. It’s about showing you’re curious and experimental. Plus you should probably make them think you’re not lazy. I made up three different projects, one composed of photographs I made on a trip to New York, one with constructed and manipulated images and the last one would be too weird for me to explain it.
RM: It was really weird and stressing at one point I wondered why I would even consider going there because I thought it would maybe become even more stressful and it was. It got better when we started the courses.
“The interview itself was nothing like I expected…It was very simple and casual” – Cécilia Poupon
CP: 3 years ago when I decided to take the online application I showed a small book entitled Randomness. I had a lot of pictures that were all taken in an attempt to find fantasy and sometimes scary strangeness in an everyday life that was quite boring. I showed everything to my former teacher Guillaume Greff and he helped me build a strong selection. The interview itself was nothing like I expected, I was asked a few questions about one or two photographs, then some more personal questions, almost like it was out of curiosity. It was very simple and casual.
Workshops are a big part of ECAL’s appeal and the publications and shows which come from these are often unique and inspiring to those on the outside. What was the most inspiring / interesting workshop or talk you were a part of?
YK: It’s the workshop I had during second year with Christian Patterson on photography book. It’s when I realized how deep you could go buy working on a book. He went threw everyone of his publications while explaining exactly the role of every pictures, every formal details, from the margins to the weight of the book, how you chose a title, how you make two images stronger by placing them next to each other, I discovered how uplifting can be a good sequence…
RM: We had a workshop with Stefan Burger where we builded a white cube in the cinema studio with stage parts we found there. We did installations, videos and photographs during a week within this setup. What I really liked about the workshops in general is that you collaborate with other students and it pushes you to be creative and diplomatic when it comes to realize an idea. It’s not always easy to be diplomatic but I think it’s something you have to understand if you want to work in photography.
CP: I’ve been part of 3 workshops so far that were all very interesting and inspiring in the most unexpected ways, but if I had to pick one it would be the one with Ren Hang. More than the work we produced during this week it was a real discovery of ourselves and going past the limits you think you have towards another person’s naked body or even your own as most of us ended up posing for each other.
There appears to be a lot of integration between mediums and subjects within the school. What was your experience of this, working on shows or publications for example?
YK: As a photographer, I was in the Visual Communication department. That means I was regularly collaborating with graphic and interaction designers on the making of books, magazines, digital publications, and videos. Plus the students start early to bind with people on a collaborative level. For exemple I had friends who helped me work on the typography of my books and usually gave me access to the fonts they designed themselves.
RM: I think the PR of the school is really good, it’s like Apple, it shifts a little bit every year but the process stay the same. What is good is that the departments can collaborate to do a finish product, graphic designers and photographers works together to do a book (mostly supervised by the professors or guests) and then it’s printed in house on the offset printer. I think it’s also why ecal produce regularly publications and shows, the facilities there are great and the access to it is fairly easy. Then the designers works on exhibition design.
CP: Indeed there is and the more I experience it the more I realize how important it is. The way you show your work becomes a big part of the work itself. It can empower your work as it can shut it down. Like a lot of things I think the more you try the more you learn.
Favourite Tutor / lecturers and why?
YK: For my diploma projects, all of the teachers gave me something essential to the final result. But if I have to be more specific, I was impressed with Natacha Lesueur who was able to say a lot about me and my work just by looking at my photographs. She helped me build most of my project’s dialectical part. I also enjoyed my conversations with Marco Poloni with who I shared many interests and was always able to place everything in its historical and political context. And finally Milo Keller, head of bachelor photography has a strong opinion on everything, could understand better than me why I was doing things and had a good eye for every aesthetical part on photography.
RM: I really liked to work with Natacha Lesueur, Marco Poloni and Joël Vacheron. They provided me with insightful comments about my work and gave me a lot of on the point literature. What I liked about my time there is that this community of students and professors is quite small and that you can keep in touch.
CP: It’s very difficult to pick one as each is very specific to his own course. I’d say Laurence Bonvin as she pushes you to think of every detail and aspect of your work, going through every crack actually. It might be hard sometimes but it’s completely worth it.
Do you feel the beautiful Swiss landscape surrounding Lausanne was an influence on your work and generally time spent there?
YK: I couldn’t say otherwise since I spent a lot of time working on places of tourism and exploring every parts of the country.
RM: I don’t know, I come from there, it’s pretty normal to me. But the area around the school is quite ugly. I think everything that surround you is influential but I think mostly the ideas comes from fellow students over a beer or something.
CP: I don’t think it’s just the landscape, i’d say it’s the culture and habits. For sure the landscape has something very soothing and relaxing and it can’t do wrong, but more than that when you’re bound to spend at least 4 years in another country you can’t completely ignore it. Of course it changes you and your work because it’s something else that’s worth interest and experiencing.
To those on the outside, it would appear there is a particular aesthetic often found in ECAL graduates work, are you able to identify with this? If so, what is your idea of this style and how do you see it changing over the years?
YK: First I have to qualify this « style » Usually people reduce the specter of work from Ecal graduates to what the school is communicating. Because ECAL as an institution usually show projects that are seductive colorful, easy on the eye. But the truth is within the school you find as many styles as there are students. I have a friend who graduated with me that constantly saw her work used for posters, covers, flyers, book covers for the ECAL’s communication. It’s not the case for everyone! But I can’t deny that graduates share something they got from their school time.
Maybe it’s their interest for communication; they often make sure that their work have a certain visual impact. Also, there is a classic exercice for photography students: At least once a year, you have a week long workshop usually outside of the school, like a beach house, the forest, or a junkyard. And with all your classmates you collaborate on making pictures. You stop all your semester projects and don’t think too much on a conceptual level to produce load of images. It’s a way to decomplex yourself and get rid of the fear to start something. During this short period the pictures have a certain spontaneity that could fit the so called ECAL aesthetic.
RM: I’m not sure it really as its own style, I think there is trends and that students wants to follow them or create new ones and then the outcome is carefully selected. Maybe you would think that by the selection that the school make but I’m sure that if you visit the school and look at what students are doing you will find plenty of different styles.
CP: I think I can see where this is coming from but I’m not sure it’s completely true as I’ve seen so many different aesthetics so far in this school. I think most of it comes from the images used for communication purposes, they have to be striking and/or appealing. I see this changing along with everybody’s perceptions of what is appealing or not and the students subject interests.
“I mean, we kind of spent four years discussing, making, living photography together. Like a bunch of nerds!” – Younès Klouche
Could you name drop 2-3 of your fellow students who you feel were an influence on your time spent at the school?
YK: Most of my classmates have influenced me at a certain point. I mean, we kind of spent four years discussing, making, living photography together. Like a bunch of nerds! Fiona Crott pushed me to go further with the conceptuality of my work, Jacques-Aurélien Brun and Thibault Jouvent collaborated with me several times during workshops, Julien Roux shared his profound love for light and composition…
RM: Priscillia Saada, Chloé Tun Tun, Boris Meister, Sylvain Croci-Torti, Jenny Baumat, Emile Barret, Fabrice Schneider, Jeremy Ayer.
CP: I’d name Maxime Guyon who is a very interesting, down to earth and reassuring person, and Ariane Delahaye, a graphic designer student who I worked with this year and made it a real pleasure.
What were the parties like?
YK: They happened every weekend. The memorable ones are usually illegal. With a sound system on the lake shore, in a squat, in a downtown apartment… Don’t worry about partying in Lausanne if you know some ECAL students.
RM: I think the parties are the same everywhere.
CP: Hah! I’m not the biggest partying person alive so I’m not sure I’m the right person to ask this, but in any case I think I can say Lausanne has more to offer than other cities of the same size. Many students or former students organize big parties so there is almost always somewhere to go, that and some nice clubs. It can be very comforting to always see familiar ECAL faces, but I must admit I’m growing a bit bored of it. Hence my best night of 2016 so far being spent in a PMU in Paris talking to strangers and inviting anyone to dance if they weren’t already!
“I think the parties are the same everywhere” – Romain Mader
The École cantonale d’art de Lausanne (ECAL) is a university of art and design based in Renens (in the urban area of Lausanne, Switzerland). Permanent and visiting lecturers include – Nicolas Haeni, Jürgen Teller, Thomas Mainlander, Erik Kessels, Jason Evans, Taiyo Onorato & Nico Krebs.