Lyon Biennale of Contemporary Art, Subjectivity Holds Value

Subjectivity holds value and the response of the spectator is part of contemporary art. The expositions of Biennale de Lyon (09.2019- 01.2020) were seen by over 300,000 visitors and 104 000 Instagram followers.

Art emerges when it meets its recipient in accordance with the ideas of “receptive criticism”. However, “immanent aesthetics” portray art as autonomous and independent, which means that there is the “art for art’s sake” option when museums are closed for the public.

The visitors of 15th Lyon contemporary art Biennale came to see the lightweight designs with climate, ecology, social change as subtexts, with “Where Water Comes Together with Other Water”, ” Là où les eaux se mêlent” as a title.

Stephen Powers, “Là où les eaux se mêlent”, 2019, image©️biennaledelyon

Jacques Derrida wrote: “There is no outside-text.” “Il n’y a pas de hors-texte”. The world is a text, where form is loaded with content -and at the Biennale beauty was loaded with the notions of the fluid state of settings, of change and contemporary philosophical currents, e.g. Z.Bauman’s concept of “liquid modernity”.

Reflections of the concept of ‘liquid modernity” could be seen in Leonard Martin’s (“La Melee”, 2019) Biennale project, and Aguirre Schwarz’s videos of “melting” logos of the Biennale corporate partners. The theme of fluidity resonates through unstructured designs of synthetic life forms of “animated” epoxy, aluminum by Isabell Andriessen ( “Ivory Dampers” ) and through Bianca Bondi ‘s reconstruction of a kitchen with glasses and saucers filled with colorful chemical potions that keep on pouring indefinitely (“The Sacred Spring and Necessary Reservoirs” 2019).


Art can navigate past nihilism. Tears and sadness were the subject of the ”Bureau des Pleurs” installation, even though the artists of this project, young post- graduates of the National Fine Arts School (ENSBA) in Lyon – Carla Adra, Romain Bobichon, Fatma Cheffi, Sophie T. Lvoff, Lou Masduraud, Irène Mélix and Maha Yammine have not yet experienced a mid- life crisis. Behavioral economics state that people are much more sensitive to losses than to gains. The artists covered two office spaces of the former Fagor factory with sand and repurposed furniture. No need in a satisfaction survey in this office, there was sadness and dissatisfaction there.


Pamela Rosenkranz, “Evian Waters”, 2019, image artdecision.eu

The pink makeup powder installation of Pamela Rosenkranz (“Evian Waters” 2019) looked great.

“Every colour holds within a soul”, said Emil Nolde. A pile of retouche-free, rose coloured powder was an update of the art’s immanent interest in colour and an unusual design for our times of “digital sublimation”.

No software retouching was used for the video “Thoughts of Caffeine” by Felipe Arturo, an artist and architect by training. He shot the video about coffee production in Ethiopia, Colombia, France, Italy using two mobile phones.  

Felipe Arturo, “Thoughts of Caffeine”, 2019, image artdecision.eu

Arranged on a black-and-white painted floor that created dimensional perspective, six platforms brought together coffee plants, common consumer objects, an extraction machine, synthetic flavorings and the video diptych in the background.

In the context of a lack of interest in pop and banal, artists such as Lenka Clayton and Jon Rubi offered the visitors of Lyon Biennale the light entertainment of their participatory project the “Six Grand Illusions”, where a magician from the neighbourhood performed a trick to pull a rabbit out of a hat and rehearsed the trick daily on a stage.  


Written by: Irina Vernichenko