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I've just got back from the Biennale d'art contemporain in Lyon. I must admit that I was pleasantly surprised. I'm fairly sceptical about contemporary art, but the festival cleverly brings together works that are as accessible as they are entertaining, from Daniel Buren's monumental walls of tinted plastic - which turn a vast hall into a kaleidoscope - to a tiny room filled with opaque green fog. (The sensation of getting lost in swirling pea soup is very cool).
The theme of the event is time - or, rather, duration - but I was struck by how much work drew from, or commented on, the media. Video installations have been with us for years now, but technology has allowed artists to become increasingly ambitious with sounds and images. One artist filmed a paper aeroplane's descent from a skyscraper in a single take, with an orchestral soundtrack that turned the simple gesture into a drama. And Wang Du's life-size sculpture of a nuclear missile, covered with newspaper headlines, was a direct comment on the power of the media. As he puts it : « Functions like the control, analysis and orientation of society and the transmission of information have given the media an immense energy, comparable to that of nuclear fission. » And of course Spencer Tunick's living sculptures, which assemble crowds of naked people in public spaces, would lose their power without the fascinated gaze of the media. Even in the rarefied world of art, naked flesh sells.