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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: L’art et sa mondialisation

The Globalisation of Art

Translated Tuesday 2 October 2007, by Helen Robertshaw

Contemporary Art. By inviting 49 exhibition curators and 14 artists to select works produced during the past decade, the Lyon Biennial broadens our perspective of international art.

The ninth Lyon Biennial has just opened its doors to the public until 6th January 2008. Ever since it was first organised in 1991, replacing the Paris Biennial which came to an end in 1985 and as part of a decentralisation effort, it has become an eagerly awaited event. An event which, due to the whole-hearted support of its artistic director Thierry Raspail, curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Lyon, appears to thrive, despite the diminishing budgets allocated to contemporary culture and the visual arts.

An important event for living art

Biennials have certainly increased in number across the world and have become an important arena for exhibiting contemporary living art but this is still uncertain territory which is wholly dependent upon the energy and commitment of just a few individuals.
This year, the two curators invited by Thierry Raspail to make their selection wanted to show how art is made up of networks. We may sense here a sort of “super mercato”, reminiscent of the one that already exists within the field of sport. The two curators thus called on 49 exhibition curators from across the world to invite an artist representative of the past decade as well as asking 14 other artists to act as curators.

The title of the Biennial “Years zero, the story of a decade which has yet to be given a name”, defines its purpose; works which are to be interpreted in very different ways are displayed in three main locations. We are very far removed from previous biennials structured around the point of view of one or two curators thus resulting in an exhibition which illustrated a single vision, even if that vision was open and broad, by creating a construction rather like a demonstrative artwork or a total work of art. Here, the rules of the game may appear simple - render visible the connections which underlie an international and globalised super-institution – if it wasn’t for the specificity of each artwork and the individual practices of each artist. We can explain this away by insisting that all this is very postmodern and clouds the issue. But this isn’t the case. We have to take our time and linger upon each artwork in order to appreciate the very different artistic visions. And then we realise that despite a general point of view which may lead us towards a much too impatient and synthetic vision of the speed and advancement of globalisation, a vision of thwarted hopes, there still remain many gaps which the artists, who have the luxury of time, know how to exploit.

We see disparities open up, for example, between two young Chinese film directors who constitute an avant-garde and French artists who invite other French artists who are part of their history or that of the following generation, a project carried out by a woman curator in South America who analyses a Western artist’s practices, viewed in relation to his culture. Some artists engage with historical ideas or events in order to create a new history which sheds light on the present day.
How do we define this decade which is not yet closed, characterised by the utopias promised by the Internet revolution, the complete erosion of borders and the reality of global conflicts more than ever exacerbated by that awful warlike dichotomy between “friend or enemy”? Each artist speaks of this and endeavours to create art despite this situation, or in order to overcome or displace this situation. This year the Lyon Biennial asks us to pay particularly close attention to all these voices which are rising up and to the resulting artworks which perhaps consider themselves more complex and less easily consumed.

Art and Territory

Finally, as always at the Biennial, the exhibitions are hosted for the most part in institutional locations so that the visitors become closely acquainted with the fabric of the city. This year, the central theme focuses on the question of art and territory and various events are on offer which take place beyond the usual locations marked out for the exhibition: how can art reach out to the public instead of making the public come to a particular location? A question which also raises the issue of public space, freedom of movement within public spaces, the form that art should take in different locations and the political and financial efforts needed for these projects and actions to succeed.

Lyon Biennial,
Until 6th January 2008.
For further information: info@biennale-
Tel. : 04 72 07 41 41 et 04 72 00 03 13.

Lise Guéhenneux

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