Hans Op de Beeck, We were the last to stay, 2022. The artist made an installation, an abandoned ghost village, a petrified setting, of steel, wood, paint and silence, along one of the sheds of the old Fagor Mill. A contemporary Pompeii that brings the chill of a space devastated by a bomb, lava from a volcano or a tsunami. Photo: Patricia Rousseaux
Hans Op de Beeck, We were the last to stay, 2022. The artist created an installation, an abandoned ghost town, a petrified setting of steel, wood, paint and silence, along one of the sheds of the former Fagor Mill. A contemporary Pompeii that brings the chill of a space devastated by a bomb, lava from a volcano or a tsunami. Photo: Patricia Rousseaux

After an intense research on the history of Lyon, curators Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath chose to bring up different expressions of our fragility, told by works from different periods of history and contemporaneity. Images and documents report, in their own existence, how man reacts to his fragility through time.

"Manifesto of fragility poses vulnerability as a possibility of generating resistance, encouraged by the past, sensitive to the present and preparing to face the future”, says art historian Isabelle Bertolotti, artistic director of the Bienal de Lyon. 

Simone de Beauvoir, one of the most famous French writers of the 1946th century, wrote back in XNUMX a classic of French existentialism, All men are mortal🇧🇷 In it, the protagonist Fosca is immortal and, in each of the characters who live throughout this infinite existence, suffers, by not being vulnerable, by not being able to live each moment as unique. Because he can't love, because he knows he's going to lose the loved one or fight, because he knows he's going to win or lose, and everything will repeat itself again. His desire went dormant. You lack nothing.

There is no yearning for immortality in the Biennale de Lyon choices. She doesn't deny our fragility, she faces it. It opens up that we are their hostages since the day we were born, which brings us the certainty that we are not excluded from time, from the time of history, and from the world. Where creating and doing in every moment can free us from the anguish of our own death.

“The manifesto imagines a world where vulnerability is actively represented, a reality as a basis for empowerment rather than being shunned as a sign of fragility. Conceived as a collective statement, it is underpinned by a plurality of resilient voices that thrive in tenderness and flourish in adversity”, write the curators, in the Manifesto of fragility.

Created in 1991, the Biennale of Contemporary Art in Lyon has systematically grown in terms of visitation and fundamentally in the concept of occupying the city. It was born concomitantly with the decline of Paris Biennale which, launched in 1959, was also called Manifestation Biennale et Internationale des Jeunes Artistes, boasting experimentalism and allowing entry only to young artists, up to 35 years old. Over the years it opened up to other suggestions, losing its originality and ended its activities in 2008. 

Ailbhe Ní Bhriain, “Instrusions II”, 2022, jacquard linen and cotton tapestry. Photo: Patricia Rousseuax

Lyon is the third most important French city, due to its history and for having played a leading role in the economy and industrialization in France. Created in antiquity by the will of Rome, due to its strategic position, it became the capital of the Gauls. It was an important political and religious center, and its Christianization took place in the 2nd century. 

“The city of Lyon itself is also a protagonist: we delved into the history of Lyon, which provides an exciting set of strata, to extract elements we wanted to see artists explore, then focused on three concentric trajectories that highlight the theme”, says Bardaouil. 

As if they had thrown a stone into the lake, the curators created narratives that develop in concentric circles. The first move, The many lives and deaths of Louise Brunet, tells the story of an individual, in this case the story and resistance of Louise Brunet, a weaver (spinner), worker in the powerful silk industry in Lyon, and her participation in the famous Revolt of the Canuts, in 1834. 

Canuts were 19th century silk workers from Lyon, often working on looms. jacquard, were subject to extremely precarious working conditions. On February 14, 1834, the Canuts rose in revolt for the second time, occupying the Lyon Hills. The uprising lasted six days before being put down by 12 troops.

According to official documents found at the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in Paris and Nantes, Louise Brunet, after four years in prison, freed would have been recruited by a great silk dealer, Nicolas Portalis, who had promised her a dignified life in a village of Btetir, on Mount Lebanon. Despite her expectations, she encounters the same difficulties that existed in France. Mistreatment, insane working conditions, which drive her to keep fighting. 

Based on these real data, Bardaouil and Fellrath, in a mixture of documentation and fantasy, build the second movement of the narrative for this biennial: Beyrouth et les Golden Sixties, placing it in Beirut, revisiting a tumultuous chapter of modernism in Lebanon. With Lebanon's declaration of independence from France in 1943, Beirut became a prized destination for artists and intellectuals from the Middle East and Arabic-speaking North Africa. Even so, with an exacerbated flow of international capital, from 1958, internal tensions broke out and installed a conflict that lasted 15 years and ended in 1975 with the Lebanese Civil War. 

Here, ethnicity, gender, sexuality and socioeconomic context were explored as various territories in which individual and collective suffering overlap, across generations.  More than 230 works and documents, by 34 artists, provide evidence of how art in difficult times remained active and relevant. “Beirut has a condensed microcosm of inconsistencies. It is a city in itself, a manifesto of fragility, and it continues to show vulnerability and determination until today”, says the Manifesto. 

Finally, developed during the pandemic, in confinement and in one of the moments when the world and global society lived with a borderline ordeal, the third movement: A world of infinite promise brings the limits and inevitable fragility of our body. “Whether racialized, colonized, gendered or diminished, 'he is the greatest manifestation of where everything begins and ends'”, says the Manifest. 

In our current state of global, climatic, socioeconomic and political uncertainty, provoked by the action of man himself, who deprecates his environment and that of others, looking more and more into a mirror in which he drowns like Narcissus, art ends up being a element of permanent denunciation, a sensitive cry.  

In this sense, the documentary and fantastic construction based on more than 125 artists, scrutinizing 3000 years, reconsidering History, often forgotten or marginalized, allows us to reflect on the difficulties that persist. 

The exhibitions and their narratives expand throughout the city of Lyon, in four routes. On the First Route, on the west side of the city, visits include macLyon, the Musée Guimet and the Parc de la Tête d'Ór; in the south direction. The second, the Musée des Beaux-Arts; the Musée de Fourvière, the Lugdunum Musée et théâtres romains, Parc LPA République, Pont de l'Úniversite and the MHL-Gadagne; to the east, the Third, Usines Fagor and Place des Pavillons. Finally, to the north, the Quarto, URDLA and Gare SNCF Part Dieu. 

One of the Biennial's significant installations was set up in one of the pavilions of Usines Fagor, the former Fagor-Brandt appliance factory, which is now partially undergoing rehabilitation. In the 1980s the factory still employed 1800 workers, after different economic cycles, it went into decline, until its closure in 2015. The place, currently with more than 29 thousand square meters, holds cultural events.

“Sensory experiences, contemplation, memory, transposition. All my work is linked to the idea of ​​“memento mori' [remember that you too will die]” says Belgian artist Hans Op de Beeck in an article for Yamina Benaï, founder and editor-in-chief of MANAGEMENT/S (Groupe Beaux Arts & Cie), “not as a gloomy or gloomy philosophical position, but rather as an invitation to consider being mortal as a reason to exercise humility and empathy, and to see solidarity with others as essential.”

In another of Fagor's warehouses, Standing by the ruins of Aleppo, 2021, by artist Dana Awartani, born in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, calls for another moment of silence and contemplation. An installation over 22 meters long and 13 meters wide, built with mud bricks from different regions of Saudi Arabia. A replica of the courtyard of the Great Mosque of Aleppo brings, from its geometric designs, characteristic of Arab culture, the memory of the great damage suffered during the Syrian Civil War.  

At the Musée Guimet – a natural history museum that has been closed for the last 15 years – French artist Ugo Schiave occupies the central hall with works using mixed techniques Grafted Memory System, 2022. An installation with plants, insects, videos showing moments of destruction of nature, insects, fossils, bones, LEDS on horticulture, reflects on the fate of the environment.

Daniel de Paula, who lives in Brazil and in Maastricht, Netherlands, stood out on the second floor of Guimet with the installation Veridical Shadows or Unfoldings of a Deceptive Physicality, a contemporary sculpture, composed of different materials borrowed or purchased from public and private institutions after negotiations. He puts this set of discarded things in dialogue with a Roman funerary mask, preserved in Lugdunum – Museum and Roman Theaters. Space and time form part of the complex web we traverse. 

In a completely different reading, the Swede Tarik Kiswanson resorts to chrysalis that, almost levitating, defying gravity, are hung upside down from furniture that belongs to the museum's history, creating a feeling of uncertainty. 

The Brazilian Valeska Soares, born in Belo Horizonte who lives and works between Brooklyn (USA) and São Paulo, created a new version of her installation for the Bienal de Lyon folly, a set of mirrors, where the video is projected Tonight, 2002, recorded in an old building, Cassino Pampulha, designed by Niemeyer. “In space, the spectator is surrounded by dancers in an endless dance. The installation speaks of solitude. Of a distant Other, fleeting, but not impossible”, prays the guide of the Manifesto of fragility, published by the Biennial. The installation was conceived in a dedicated space on the Place des Pavillons. 

The Lyon Biennale brought different expressions, the product of careful research and the choice of unique works of ethical and aesthetic quality. In conversation, it allowed artists from different cultures to create an environment for reflection based on poetic narratives about our existence.

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