Critics’ Picks

Ed Fornieles, Maybe New Friends (Britney Rivers), 2013, mixed media, dimensions variable. Installation view.

Ed Fornieles, Maybe New Friends (Britney Rivers), 2013, mixed media, dimensions variable. Installation view.


12th Biennale de Lyon

Biennale de Lyon
Multiple venues
September 12–December 29, 2013

Attempting to revive what guest curator Gunnar B. Kvaran describes as “the radical strangeness and complexity that is usually flattened and smoothed by conventional storytelling,” the works by the seventy-seven artists in the Twelfth Biennale de Lyon are each loosely linked by an attention to the process and methodologies of narrative; however, the conceit initiating their presentation is precisely demonstrated in the exhibition catalogue. Comprising texts written in the first-person perspective from nearly all included artists, this parallel publication nearly eclipses the survey show it is intended to document. Take, for instance, Laure Prouvost’s project proposal for Before, Before, 2011, and After, After, 2013. Here, Prouvost’s writing exemplifies a form of ekphrasis similar to Ed Atkins’s text-based extrapolation of the two definitions of the word depression, both as an emotional state and as a hollow made by one’s thumb on various parts of one’s body, a double meaning prominently featured in his included film Even Pricks, 2013.

Elsewhere, character sketches vacillate between Pygmalion obsessions and substitutions for the artists’ personas, beginning with Jeff Koons’s recollection of his 2006 New York Times promotional photo shoot with actress Gretchen Mol in Bettie Page costume. The essay functions as a meditation on what he calls the “biological narrative” fundamental to the Venus trope, demonstrated in Antiquity 2, 2009-12, a painting included in the exhibition, in which Koons’s actress subject is depicted air-kissing a blow-up plastic monkey atop a balloon dolphin in the foreground of three Greek antiquity statues. Similarly, Ed Fornieles intersperses a traditional interview format with screen-grab images of various online media relevant to the construction of his muse, Britney Rivers, a protagonist around whom his 2013 installation Maybe New Friends (Britney Rivers) revolves.

John Kelsey most successfully ruptures narrative conventions by removing the subject altogether. Reiterating his proposal for the 2012 Whitney Biennial for “parasitic” exhibition intervention in the form of wall texts for fictional artworks, Kelsey further demonstrates this ancillary relation, by circumscribing a missing subject—his still unrealized wall texts project—so that a fiction stands in for the artwork.