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16th Lyon Biennial: fragility as a tool of resilience

Postponed to 2022 because of the pandemic, the 16th edition of the Lyon Biennial entitled “Manifesto of Fragility” analyses the state of fragility in the face of the world’s upheavals. How? ‘Or’ What ? By putting history into dialogue with the present, in a local and international axis, through a series of exhibitions in emblematic places in Lyon, some of them never seen before.

Spread over four routes and twelve sites – including the Usines Fagor, the macLYON, the Musée Guimet and the Musée d’Histoire de Lyon-Gadagne – 202 artists from 40 countries are presenting numerous pieces, 66 of which have been specially created for the occasion. “We wanted to anchor the project in the cityexplain curators Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath, directors of the Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin, through stories connecting artists on the theme of fragility.” Two and a half years of research, carried out before and during the pandemic, allowed them to highlight this theme in its most universal form in these uncertain times. With the general exhibition “A World of Infinite Promise”, this duo, which won a prize at the last Venice Biennale, wanted to claim vulnerability as a tool of resistance against exclusion and precariousness, and to induce the notions of migration, resilience and ecology. Among all the works covering a multitude of media – tapestries, paintings, installations, videos, sculptures, architectures, ceramics – here are some of the most outstanding.

At Fagor, fragility in all its forms


Pedro Gómez-Egaña revisits the space of our daily life

Virgo, a work by Colombian Pedro Gómez-Egaña, is intriguing. Animated by several performers, this habitat, which seems to be cut into slices by a mobile device of white metal structures, creates astonishing optical illusions. A work, between architecture and design, questioning the typology of domestic spaces and their evolution, while underlining their permanent fragility.

Virgo by Pedro Gomez-Egaña

With Erin M. Riley, tapestry breaks the codes

Scenographing her condition as a young woman, which she combines with press clippings, selfies or images gleaned from the Internet, the thirty-year-old American designer creates contemporary tapestries, respecting this traditional art to the letter. Addressing the constraints of womanhood, Cramson Lanslide features a close-up of menstrually reddened panties, while Why Now? shows the designer burning her own photograph. Textile pieces that question by their radicality, their message and their photographic aesthetic.

Crimson Landslide by Erin M. Riley, 2018

Nicolas Daubanes calls for resistance

By reproducing the interior of a courtroom in the Lyon Armed Forces Court, where portraits of convicts made with iron filings are exhibited, the French visual artist evokes fragility in its most pugnacious aspect. I do not recognize the competence of your court! a monumental installation specially created for the occasion, invites the public to reflect on the real competence of this jurisdiction, under the prism of a police investigation.

I do not recognize the competence of your court! by Nicolas Daubanes

Jose Dàvila, the borderline furniture

The Mexican thwarts the usual notions of stability by putting furniture found in Lyon in a precarious balance. Science as a reality remains Platonic is a command in concrete, wood, rock and ratchet strap. Attached to a stone by a strap, the piece of furniture balanced on a piece of concrete, can wobble at any time and smash on the ground. A very visual work, probing the weakness of a state, a metaphor for the vulnerability of our existence.

Science as a Platonic reality by José Dàvila

Hans Op de Beeck’s ghost camping

In Hall 4 of the Fagor factories, We were the last to stay by Belgian artist Hans Op de Beeck exposes a public space, as if after a nuclear explosion. An urban space covered with ashes, silent and lifeless, which alarms on the environmental consequences.

We were the last to stay by Hans Op de Beeck
Who we are out of the Dark by Sara Brahim

At the Museum of History of Lyon-Gadagne, the sensitive poetry of the theme in the hands of Sara Brahim


The cyanotype on cotton Who we are out of the Dark by the young Saudi woman Sara Brahim presents an elegant choreography of her own hands on a deep blue fabric. Delicate evocation of the ephemeral life…

At macLYON, Louise Brunet, a multiple figure of the rebellion


Through the narration of the life of Louise Brunet, a young weaver from Lyon who participated in the revolt of the canuts, the third floor of the macLyon analyzes the notion of insubordination, resilience and the fight against discrimination. The overwhelming video Prelude to a Death Foretold, by Rafael França, evokes the ravages of AIDS, in a resistant ballet of intertwining bodies, where the names of people who have died from this plague appear. Further on, a video installation by the fantastic Lebanese duo Joana Hadjithomas & Khalil Joreige, composed of twelve video films taken from surveillance cameras of the Sursock Museum in Beirut, transports the viewer to the heart of the Lebanese explosion of August 4, 2020 with fright.

The many lives of Louise Brunet

At Guimet, nature reclaims its rights with Ugo Schiavi


In the largest room of this former museum of natural history, created in the nineteenth century and fallen into disuse since 2007, Grafted memory System of the French artist Ugo Schiavi underlines the vulnerability of our lives, facing the superiority of nature. This astonishing ecosystem of fossils, bones, waste, interwoven with 3D images, fragments of museum architecture, constitutes a vanity of a new world, reborn after a catastrophe.

Virginie Chuimer-Layen

Grafted Memory System by Ugo Schiavi © Blandine Soulage

16th Lyon Biennial of Contemporary Art, “Manifesto of Fragility”, Usines Fagor, macLYON, musée Guimet, musée d’histoire de Lyon-Gadagne, other places to see on : Until December 31, 2022.