The Spectacle of the Everyday

Por Hou Hanru, curador de la 10ª Bienal de Lyon

We are living in the society of the spectacle. In spite of its alienating effects on our life and social relationships, it’s one of the very fundamental conditions of our existence. We perceive the world and communicate with each other through the spectacle – a system of image production and representation dominated by the logic of market capitalism which tends to "develop" our faculties of perception, imagination and reflection towards a "one dimensional model" formatted by the language of consumerist ideology. This is also the very contemporary condition of our self-identification and social order "guaranteed" by the established power system. As a main typology of artistic and cultural events of our time, biennials of contemporary art are no doubt an ultimate form of expressions of such a tendency.

However, whereas there is no longer any "outside" for the society of the spectacle in the age of globalisation, or the "global empire" (Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt), there is always a necessity to engage critically and negotiate subversively with such a condition of "no-outside". It’s here, in such an engagement, that contemporary art and culture can regain their social role as a critical force and a channel for imaginative propositions for a better future.

If the society of the spectacle has imposed a seemingly unbeatable social, economic and political order and intellectual, artistic and cultural structure, it’s at once absolutely urgent and permanently necessary for the art and culture worlds to come up with new visions and strategies promoting different and alternative ideas and solutions for the world to embrace its future. They should be diverse, complex, ever-changing and open to all kinds of uncertainties and potentials against the static-ness, reductionism and control of the established order. The domain of everyday life, or le quotidien, is certainly the most open and efficient space in which, due to "alter-globalisation" – the global trend of social activism and independent initiatives to construct a new, bottom-up and more just world – one can most creatively imagine and propose fresh ideas and vision, as well as energetically encourage social mobilisations for more freedom and common interests. As Michel de Certeau pointed out three decades ago, the (re) invention of everyday life – le quotidien, or the ordinary – through differentiating usages of game-playing (jeux) with our daily objects, behaviours and modes of practice, we can obtain a new freedom in our negotiation with the established order. We are now, indeed, witnessing the birth of a new order that brings the global structure of human communication and economic, social and political activities beyond the one-dimensional power system.

We are increasingly embracing a world reconstructed upon the complexity blending vertebral and cellular, vertical and horizontal, distant and proximate modes of organisation and circulation. As Arjun Appadurai states, this is a process of grass-root globalisation. Changes in our everyday life practices, or their reinventions, are the most crucial aspect in the making of this new order. It’s also the most inspiring context for contemporary art to evolve and obtain new relevance. In the age of globalisation, it is not enough for contemporary art to become a spectacular phenomenon embraced by almost all people in all corners of the world. It’s even more important to testify that artists and art communities from different parts of the globe are increasingly sharing the common understanding and strategies to reinvent themselves through engagements with the realm of everyday life. More and more artists are magically turning the ordinary into novel forms, meanings and usages while innovative collective mobilisations are brought to the forefront as a more democratic structure of art practices and their social functions. They are the core of the global art and culture scene today. Through intensely presenting and promoting these initiatives using the most efficient tools, including spectacular events like international biennials, truly innovative and relevant contemporary art practices will obtain a much larger visibility and help us build a new, genuinely public space for our era.

After 20 years of existence and growth, the Biennale de Lyon is now facing a new challenge to reinvent itself. Exploring and presenting the new tendency of the global art scene in its common efforts to reinvent the ordinary into something spectacular and unique, or a new multitude of expressions of diversity, complexity and interactivity, the Biennale itself will certainly obtain a freshly new youth. And it’s the best recipe to confront the current crisis that the whole world is entangled with…

The Spectacle of the Everyday is fundamentally changing both the spectacle and the everyday!

Taking place in several venues in Lyon city and its suburban areas, the Biennale, with works by about 60 artists from different parts of the world, will be structured as a multi-dimensional system that reflects both intellectually and physically the dynamism and complexity of the thesis – the Spectacle of the Everyday – itself. There will be four chapters and a special section:

1. The Magic of Things, or the reinvention of the everyday
This section focuses on artists who "magically" transform everyday objects, situations and environments into new forms with innovative significances, new aesthetic visions. These in turn are making various statements on life events from personal, social, historical and even political perspectives.

2. Celebrating the Drift
Inspired by the Situationist strategy of drifting (dérive) and confronting the contemporary urban transformation (as a process of the formation of new spatial orders dominated by the current globalisation), artists from different parts of the world are moving into, intervening on and exploring urban spaces, especially streets, in diverse forms and strategies, in order to resist the dominant orders and spatial constraints and to claim new liberties of action. It opens up doors towards trans-disciplinary collaborations.

3. Another World Is Possible
In the age of globalisation and the current troubles with the global economic and geopolitical systems, it’s crucially important to investigate and encourage different, independent and alternative initiatives and actions in terms of critically re-examining reality and envisioning new social orders and systems for a better life and a better world. For the last decade, a considerable number of artists and social activists across the globe have been expressing energetically and critically their engagements in such a challenge. This chapter intends to introduce some exemplary projects that demonstrate such engagements, at once individually and collectively, subversively and playfully…

4. Living Together
Mainly installed in the Museum of Contemporary Art, this chapter intends to turn the museum into an open platform for dialogues and exchange with the city, with local and other communities. In the meantime, a few works in the collection of the museum (or formerly exhibited in the museum) that functioned in this sense will be reactivated to put forward the memory of the site as living experiences. The very tension between the opening towards reality and memory of the site will ultimately generate an ongoing and ever-growing programme of various events – music, dance, happenings, debates, conferences, etc…

5. Veduta
Closely related to the section of "Living Together", several artists will be invited to reside in the suburban areas with a large immigrant population, which are known for their historic events such as Mouvement des Beurs, anti-racism rallies, etc. The artists will collaborate with the local population and produce new works to be exhibited in both the residency sites and the Biennale venues, notably in the museum…

© Copyright texto: Hou Hanru
Foto, texto: Información de prensa de la Bienal de Lyon

10ª Bienal de Lyon
16 septiembre 2009 -
3 enero 2010
Lyon, Francia

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