One of Europe’s biggest cultural events has opened its doors to the public again in France, Lyon’s Biennale of Contemporary Art.
First founded in 1991, the large-scale event was supposed to celebrate its 30th-anniversary last year but pandemic restrictions put paid to that. This year, the event is taking place in one of the southern city’s former factories, which used to be the jewel of Lyon’s working-class industry and employed 1,800 workers before it was abandoned.
The uncertainty felt internationally during the first years of the COVID-19 pandemic is being expressed at this year’s event, which is focusing on “A Manifesto of Fragility.”
“Fragility really is a topic that is on everyone’s mind at the moment,” said Till Fellrath, one of the Biennale’s co-curators.
“When we were appointed to be the curators of this edition of this Biennale, just a few weeks later the COVID-19 pandemic started and all the borders closed.
“So, we weren’t even able to come back physically to Lyon. It was in this backdrop that we started talking to the artists. We realised very quickly that there is thread that connects us all at the moment.”
One of the installations, created by the Belgian artist Hans Op de Beeck, is called ‘We Were the Last to Stay’.
It reconstructs an entire post-apocalyptic city, where the future, the present, and the past cross paths.
Another project explores Beirut’s so-called ‘Golden Age’ in the 1960s, which took place moments before the devastating Lebanese Civil War began, permanently changing the country.
“We intended to create this confrontation between unexpected partners in a sense,” said Sam Bardaouil, another co-curator for the event.
“Artists have always been contemporary. Artists always try to reflect on the current moment and create works that speak to a certain time… But at the same time, bringing them into this space talks about continuity also.”
Many of the city’s museums, whether archaeological, religious, or artistic, are working with the Biennial to allow visitors to explore Lyon’s heritage through contemporary exhibitions.
Altogether, 88 artists from 39 countries will have their art displayed in Lyon until December 31.
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