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by Dominique Moulon [ January 2010 ]
Thierry Raspail, the artistic director of the Lyon Biennial, has entrusted this 10th edition to the curator Hou Hanru. The event regroups four sites, the Sucrière, the Mac, the Bullukian Foundation and the Bichat Warehouse where the works are organised according to chapters: “The Magic of Things”, “Celebrating the Drift”, “Living Together”, “Another World is Possible” and “Veduta”. The general theme of the year is “The Spectacle of the Everyday”.

spacerIn Karachi

The Second Seal

Bani Abidi,
“Security Barriers”, 2008,
Source Blaise Adilon.
spacerBani Abidi was born in Karachi and evokes the Pakistani city through three series of works exhibited at the Sucrière, the first two of which regroup digital drawings while the third is comprised of photographs. The first symbolises the power of those who accept or do not accept dialogue, and the power of those who authorise or do not authorise access, through the representation of inter-communication devices in this country where, according to the artist: “the powers of class, caste and feudalism define most social relations”. The second represents security barriers located near foreign embassies in her native city. They symbolise the power of states and their coloured stripes are comparable to the stripes of certain animals intended to ward off adversaries. Lastly, a few photographs feature people, still in Karachi, who take over public spaces once night falls. By setting themselves up in the street to arrange flowers, have their hair done or do their ironing, women provide spectacles of their decontextualized daily lives.

spacerThe Wire

Bleu Remix

Locus Sonus,
Ouverts”, 2009,
Source Alain Renaud.
spacerThe research laboratory and art studio Locus Sonus is proposing to wire the entire planet for sound. The photographs of the “Locustream”, project, set up in the Museum of Contemporary Art in Lyon, help to visually document the installation of open microphones located in several places around the world. So from Amsterdam to Yokohama, and on through Chicago to Dakar, “Streamers” participate in this global project by capturing sonic landscapes from abroad. The “SoundMap” of the Locus Sonus server makes it possible to hear them on line in your own home. And so it is from an apartment equipped with double glazed windows designed to prevent any street noise from penetrating that one is surprised to hear the street noises from some place else. Wasn’t it John Cage who said: “If a noise bothers you, listen to it”? Headsets in the exhibition make it possible to go on an imaginary sonic trip by going from one stream to another without worrying about distances or borders.

spacerA European green card!

The Second Seal

Société Réaliste,
“EU Green Card Lottery”,
spacer“Choosing where one lives is considered to be a basic right, but for non-Westerners, this right does not exist”, say the members of the Parisian collective Société Réaliste. Aware of the question of world immigration, they have created a site online that offers a European green card through a lottery system like the one used by the US State Department. Such a card does not exist in Europe, but the artists nevertheless promoted it abroad during a performance in Chicago in 2006 where they set up an immigration office. It was a situation reversal not unlike the port of Ellis Island. It is easy to imagine contemporary art enthusiasts from Illinois getting into the game by participating in adding to the Internet database entitled “EU Green Card Lottery”. The inside walls of the installation exhibited on the first floor of the Sucrière are covered with hundreds of fake cards representing all the Nigerians who simply want to live somewhere else. All of them received an email explaining the “artistic” aspect of this initiative, which underlines the cruelty of the worldwide immigration market. There are many sites comparable to this one belonging to the Société Réaliste collective, but they cost money.

spacerJust like a real one

The Second Seal

“Toy Emissions”,
spacerAgain on the first floor of the Sucrière, there is a strange video that features a model version of a Porsche Cayenne that is dangerously dwarfed by full scale vehicles on a New York avenue. It is remote controlled by members of the HeHe collective during an urban performance that was done during a residency at the Eyebeam. ‘”The first impression we had of New York was the continuous traffic hum and the everyday spectacle of enormous 4x4 vehicles of which the Porsche Cayenne is prominent (and emblematic) of the species”, they tell us. It was through a change of scale that they decided to highlight the prominence of vehicles that are among the most polluting on the planet in this city where everything is possible. The artists’ toy car is equipped with smoke bombs giving off yellow, pink, green, blue or purple smoke, which doesn’t fail to surprise passers-by who we hear laughing. “Oh my God!” cries one of them. Modified in this way by the artists, this toy Porsche Cayenne is in every way like a real one, right down to the gas emissions that are magnified by colour.

spacerThe second seal

The Second Seal

Kin-Wah Tsang,
“The Second Seal”,
2009, Source
Blaise Adilon.
spacerNothing is happening in the room reserved for Kin-Wah Tsang’s installation “The Second Seal”. The room is empty when a red light on a wall draws my gaze before disappearing furtively. I understand from the second apparition appearing on another wall, that they are moving typographic characters. The words, “The Peace”, then “The Sword”, then “The Liberation” are written in red letters. The words come down slowly from the ceiling, wriggling like lizards. They go around the door and bounce on the floor. They marry with the shapes of the interior architecture of the Sucrière by multiplying themselves. The words gradually become phrases, “You want vengeance”, “They want vengeance”, “You need vengeance”, “They need vengeance”, while the sound evoking the rain or hail fills the space in amplifying itself, right up until the walls virtually disappear to be replaced by a “hailstorm of fire mixed with blood” announced in the apocalypse. And the piece is indeed about the apocalypse because this installation is part of a series entitled “The Seven Seals” evoked in the text by Saint John.

spacerThrough the looking glass

The Second Seal

Adrian Paci,
“Per Speculum”,
2006, Source
Blaise Adilon.
spacerThe incessant noise of the 35 mm projector heightens the cinematographic tension established through the image where we gradually discover the faces of children. Their calm becomes unbearable. One of them frees the others by using a slingshot in the direction of the spectator. The mirror they are facing, as though anchored to the ground, then breaks and the strange cut away that remains limits the field of the reverse angle. Freed by this gesture of one of their own, they all flee. But we then find them again a bit later, quieted down, perched in the branches of a sycamore tree, each one of them holding a piece of the broken mirror seemingly reflecting the light of the projector that is oddly in the room of this video installation entitled “Per Speculum”; or when two temporalities are fused by light. There are many artists that have used mirrors, from Diego Vélasquez to Dan Graham, without for as much the strangeness of their use having suffered any wear in the field of art.

spacerEntering the image

The Second Seal

Eulàlia Valldosera,
“The Kitchen”, 2009,
Source Blaise Adilon.
spacerThe installations, “The Period” and “The Kitchen”, by Eulàlia Valldosera, are among the rare participative works of this tenth biennial. The first consists of an alignment of various glasses filled with a red liquid symbolising blood, if one considers its title. Spectators are invited to push a baby carriage along rails. By doing so, they control the beam of light from a projector loaded into it that is stained by the red coloured liquid that it shines through while its movements, in the image, are similar to those of a camera. The use of rails in cinematography is essential for doing dolly or tracking shots while the play of shadow and light send us back farther to the theatrical origins of cinema. The cinematographic aspect of the second installation of the Spanish artist is increased by the sound of the 16mm projector emitting the light. And the public, here again, is invited to “enter the image” by repositioning laundry hanging on wires, thus participating in the story that is being told by the light straight onto the wall.

spacerMore light!

The Second Seal

Mounir Fatmi,
“Ghosting”, 2009,
Source Blaise Adilon.
spacerLastly, there is an intriguing installation by Mounir Fatmi on the third floor of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Lyon. Entitled “Ghosting”, it is quite simply magnificent. The artist has covered the whole of a wall with VHS cassettes that literally vomit the magnetic tapes of their entrails onto the parquet in the direction of photocopy machines they eventually reach. The public can even make use of the machines to desperately try to extract images from a memory that has become inaccessible. If only they were working because it would seem that the flow of analogical tapes, like migrating viral populations, have taken over. And on the wall, ironically, is written “Mehr Licht!” which means more light. These were Goethe’s famous last words before dying.

Written by Dominique Moulon for "Images Magazine" and translated by Geoffrey Finch for "newmediaart.eu", this article is also available in French on "nouveauxmedias.net".