The 16th Lyon Biennale: fragility at the heart of a generative form of resistance

Written by Sarah Patelli
September 14, 2022

The 16th Lyon Biennale elevates its perspective to a meta-historical panorama through significant loan and from many of Lyon’s leading cultural institutions. Conceived by curators Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath as a “manifesto of fragility”, the 16th Lyon Biennale positions fragility at the heart of a generative form of resistance that is emboldened by the past, responsive to the present, and primed for the future.

The 16th Lyon Biennale recognizes that artists, past and present, are often among the most vulnerable voices in our societies. Museums and libraries bequeath the perishable testimonies of their work to future generations in the hope that their legacies outlast our own mortality. By the same token, we are enchanted by novelty, so much so that we risk losing our appreciation for the contemporaneity of all art. In addressing these contradictory impulses, the 16th Lyon Biennale brings together works of art and objects spanning millennia and disparate geographies that impart enduring accounts of vulnerability and perseverance, bare their scars and deformities, share witness accounts of turmoil, or simply draw attention to the indelible traces of time. With access to the vast collections of museums in Lyon and beyond, the Biennale initiates a revised reading of diverse works and the narratives they embody. Eternally cyclical, our fragility repeatedly rises to the fore, stares us in the face, and then seemingly disappears, while it lingers on underneath time’s thick skin, dormant yet not gone, silent but never silenced.

The 16th Lyon Biennale assembles a host of creative practices and objects that variously speak to the vulnerabilities of people and places. What would become of our world, the Biennale seeks to ask, if instead of shunning vulnerability as a sign of weakness, we were to harness it as a foundation for empowerment?

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