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Enclosure, confinement, isolation, uprooting, destitution, disruptions, wanderings, fears…: the list of evils of our world in the grip of doubt and anxiety is endless. From the ravages of war to political lies, from global warming to pandemic cycles, the 200 artists gathered at the 16th Lyon Biennial of Contemporary Art (spread over twelve venues) review the torments and disenchantments of our time to show the vulnerability of beings and places, their wounds, but also the resilience of bruised beings and peoples and their strategies developed to resist and invent “future forms of being in the world. A Manifesto of Fragility whose lines of force and fault lines we have identified in five key words.


Like the monochrome portraits of Giulia Andreani and the buried worlds of Hans Op de Beeck. Composed from old photographs or screen captures of films and documentaries, the portraits painted in Payne gray by Giulia Andreani (born in 1985 in Venice) evoke the erasure of memory, “forgotten stories, buried narratives.”  As well as the gigantic immersive installation with the appearance of a ghost town by Hans Op de Beeck (born in 1969 in Belgium), We were the last to stay. Like a giant memento mori, this abandoned campsite frozen in a gangue of gray paint reminds us of the irretrievable flight of time and the vanity of human existence (“Dust you will become dust again…”).


Explosion, flood, collapse… From the ghostly images captured in the Sursock Museum during the explosion of August 4, 2020 which destroyed in a fraction of a second a third of Beirut (video installation by Joana Hadjithomas & Khalil Joreige) to the hypnotic and electro-magnetic labyrinth of Evita Vasiljeva leading us to the contemplation of a disemboweled wall… The ruin is one of the most recurrent leitmotivs of this Biennial, from the bouquets of asbestos fibers sown under the broken roof of the old abandoned chalet-restaurant in the Parc de la Tête d’Or, invested by Nina Beier. To the collapses of coal burying the faces of old photographs and other off-frame spills of crumpled, burned papers… by Lucia Tallova answer the stained photographs of Munen Wasif. Clemens Behr’s floating ruins, probing the fragile utopias of Brutalist architecture – built for eternity on the promise of “a better world” – are echoed by Ailbhe Ní Bhriain’s woven architectural ruins composed from digital collages. It is also, among other mediums, the tapestry used by Markus Schinwald for his Panorama of Chaos: a fantastic field of ruins deployed like a mural, the setting of a funereal theater of memory, embellished with scratched paintings, a mutilated antique bust and casts of broken heads… 


In a disturbing choreographic installation giving the video screen the appearance of a tomb, it is the ruin of the body that Omar Rajeh & Mia Habis stage in a magnificent allegory of old age entitled Walking in the wrinckles: following in close-up the slow movements of the truncated body of a centenarian dancer (Georges Macbriar) diffused in a mobile box, the camera walks us through the wrinkles and witherings of a skin that seems already almost dead. .. 


Ruins of stones, ruins of the body… From these stagings of fragility result a proliferation of prostheses and other devices hybridizing the living and the machine in dystopian spaces, kinds of non-places or places in suspense, petrified or in becoming, post-human. Thus the environments sparse with pipes and giant epoxy skins inlaid with embroidery by Klára Hosnedlová. Haunted by strange caparisoned “creatures” (in prostheses and rags) during performances, these very organic stagings of space evoke less disappearance than mutation. As well as the filmic installations and biomorphic sculptures of WangShui, who shows here “a landscape of another world” co-written with artificial intelligence in order to explore the entanglement of human consciousness and the machine. 


Technico-archaeological amalgams proceeding from the concretion of computer relics (motherboards, hard disks, processors…) melted in an artificial lava, the Metamorphism of Julian Charriere proceed from this same hybridization. As well as the strange germinations of cables and plants in the immense landscape of science fiction deployed by Ugo Schiavi in the former Museum of Natural History (Guimet Museum) transformed into an abandoned data center. Mixing plants, fossils and bones with human waste (modeled and projected in 3D), this Grafted Memory System plunges us into a troubling “archaeology of the future”.

Lyon Biennial
Until December 31st