THERE is a particular energy in being in a country while that country is playing in the World Cup. Okay, France didn't win and seemed to be half asleep at first, but the excitement when it woke up was enough to even get my mum excited about watching football – and trust me, that takes a lot.
A pre-Christmas visit to the Lyon Biennale with a direct flight from Belfast was hard to pass by. It is an easy city to get around and the sites of the Biennale included a multi-storey car park, a disused factory, two contemporary art museums, a puppet museum and a Roman theatre museum connected to an extraordinarily well-preserved Roman ampitheatre.
It was the 16th edition of the citywide exhibition, which this year includes over 200 artists and this year's theme being 'Manifesto of Fragility'.This gives a lot of freedom of interpretation which included a thoughtful way of the city looking at its history of colonialism and in particular its links with silk production in the Lebanon. There's a focus on the art scene in Beirut, which recently experienced a golden age of creativity.
The city has turned a closed factory complex into Usine Fagor – a creative space which gives a rare opportunity for artists to install work in a large space. Hans Op de Beeck turned his into a kind of apolitical playground, called 'We Were the Last to Stay 2022'. It's got a caravan site, a play area with religious statues that you can walk through, all covered with a fine grey paint. It made for an interesting experience, as if being transported to Chernobyl.
Daniel Otero Torres' work examines the status of polarisation, the sense of conflicts, the building of forgiveness and the fight for peace in different regions of the world. His images of Columbia , Guatemala and South Africa seemed strangley familar. But I was really impressed by the artists who connected with the communities of the city, be it in the parks, schools or – for Annika Kahrs – her ability to connect a group of carpenters and singers in a disused church. The voices and the sound of tools produced a series of videos capturing the beauty of their spontaneity rather than virtuosity.
Amazing what u can do with a disused factory #fragility #art #sculpture #lyonbienalle pic.twitter.com/iT40n1xefE— Bronagh Lawson (@CreativChangeNI) December 16, 2022
There was one Irish artist featured – Aibhe Ní Bhriáin with a piece called 'An Experiment With Time', based on a book by JW Dunne in which parallel timelines and the narratives of dreams predict the future. Using live film and artificlal intelligence to generate images, the result is multi-screen, dream-like theatricality.
It's great to explore a city that supports the arts and acklowledges that not only does it sustain its population but also brings tourists from outside of the city to enjoy all that the city has to offer. I look forward to Belfast doing something on this scale. One ticket to access everything made it easy to navigate and even though it was near the end of the Biennale run, there were still plenty of visitors.