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Biennial Art Show in Lyon

A vision of the "modern"


With its title "Modern life" (La vie moderne), the 13th biennial art show in Lyon highlights the contradictions of modern world.

An interrogation about modernism

Under the sign of "modernism" This is how the 13th edition of the Biennial Modern Art Show opened in Lyon. Inhuman megalopolis, evasive flow of information, absurd technologies, permanent waste... the 300 pieces selected for the exhibition "La vie moderne " (Modern Life) talk about a unsuitable environment.

The contributions of 60 exhibiting artists create a questioning patchwork of the modern world, often seen as a boisterous, cacophonous and contradictory... but not deprived of a certain poetry. There's a bit of Jacques Tati in this fascination for the absurdity of cutting edge technologies.

Art in modern life

Those who already know the work of Michel Blazy won't be surprised and will find technologic wastes versus living matter in the hall of la Sucrière. The French artist is interested in the precarious state of objects and diverts our computers to transform them into flower pots or grows vegetables in our trademark shoes. Recycling is also at the heart of the work of Mike Nelson, who exhibits flat and ripped apart tires he got on the A7 motorway as if they were trophies.

On the theme of technological upheaval, Camille Blatrix assesses the ambiguous relation we have with connected objects. In a futuristic and deranged vision, he presents his "ATM which talks about the sadness in this world". A sentimental machine that chit-chats with its users. Céleste Boursier-Mougenot explores the invisible dimension of new technologies by placing the silent work of waves in the heart of his artistic creation. The electromagnetic circle exhibited by the artist from Nice reacts to the waves sent by mobile phones. At the centre of the circle, he placed a musical battery and dry cherry stones. When a visitor gets close to the installation with his mobile at hand, the electromagnetic waves send the cherry stones in the box, which produces a random music.

Youth and freshness

Instead of major figures, the exhibition curator, Ralph Rugoff chose young artists "who don't try to make a point or express a definite opinion through their work, but rather try to start potential conversations, often by shaking our deepest beliefs and our usual views", he said in his presentation of the Biennial.

Ralph Rugoff is renowned for his taste for the unexpected and surprise, and he put forward pieces specifically designed for this exhibition: 65% of the artists present have received work orders.

Artistic interactivity

Another standpoint from Ralph Rugoff, who is also the director of the Hayward Gallery in London: a fifth of exhibitors are French. The art Biennial in Lyon seeks to improve its identity and to be different in the crowd of similar events.

As such, the backdrop in which the Biennial takes place is one of the themes. Many pieces took as a starting point the historical situation of Lyon. Local visitors are offered an original point of view about their city: this brings them to ponder on their usual environment. "I always given a lot of significance to Marcel Duchamp's work, through which the spectator is accountable for half of the content of an art piece", says Ralph Rugoff.

The importance given to the spectator in this artistic movement doesn't stop here. This year, two contests are open to the general public. The first will select the best pictures on the theme "Modern Life": they will be exhibited in the digital version of the Biennale. The second is a stories contest on the same theme: the best three will be published in the magazine "Télérama".

Photo credits:

La Lettre d’Alison pour Victor, Camille Blatrix © BaliceHertling

Pull Over Time, Michel Blazyn © Dorine Potel, ADAGP, Paris 2015