Aurélie Pétrel Portrait
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La Biennale de Lyon Minuit chez Roland [31 décembre]
From September 14th to December 31st, 2022
On the occasion of the 16th Biennale de Lyon Manifesto of Fragility curated by Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath, the artist Aurélie Pétrel presents the work Minuit chez Roland [December 31]. The piece which unfolds in 3 spaces in the city of Lyon, at the Fargor-Brandt factories at the Tête d'Or park at the République park + in resonance at the gallery Ceysson & Benetiere.
Since 2017, Lebanon and more specifically Beirut has been one of the geographical anchors of Aurélie Pétrel's work. Originally invited as part of a teaching program designed to establish exchanges with the young Lebanese photography scene, Beirut has become a research ground for her artistic practice.
During one of her residencies, in 2018, she discovered two notebooks in an antique bookshop, an address book and a diary that belonged to a woman from Lyon. This link between two cities, Beirut and Lyon, between two young mothers-to-be, Jeanne and Aurélie, and between two eras, the 1960s and today, has created a common ground. An operational gateway for a photographic investigation that has led to the creation of an artwork for the Lyon Contemporary Art Biennial, Manifesto of fragility, curated by Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath.
In 1957, a woman in her thirties arrives in Beirut. She joins her husband, eager to discover the exhilarating life of the Lebanese capital. The story begins at midnight on December 31, the New Year's Eve party takes place "at Roland's", probably a French friend, in the lively Gemmayze district. 1958 was the year she moved to Lebanon. She works in a small business. In mid-February she got pregnant with her second child; a few months later, in mid-May, the assassination of a journalist triggered the first street fights in Beirut.
With this logbook in hand, the artist conducts an empirical field survey by inviting some of the city's contemporary actors to share their memories or perceptions of that time. These individual stories allow putting a distance and create a space between the stories and the act of capturing photographic image on site. The artist is now re-reading her work in order to weave a link between these first tangible signs that announce the many successive crises in Lebanon, the ongoing conflicts, until the explosions of August 4, 2020.
Titled Minuit chez Roland [31 décembre], the first words of the exhumed notebook, the piece created by Aurélie Pétrel for the 2022 Biennial is spread out over nearly 200 square meters in the Fagor-Brandt factories in Gerland, in the heart of the peninsula at the Parc LPA-République and at the Ceysson & Bénétière gallery, as well as in the Parc de la Tête d'Or.
The installation invites the viewer to measure themselves against a labyrinth of photographic glasses that summon the "golden sixties" of Beirut, to the most recent works. The notebook creates the framework of the proposal that leads into a maze of stories. Between opacity and transparency, the piece of 70 photographic glasses provides passages, larger gaps or dead ends. It promotes a breeding ground to convene other mental images of Beirut, a city which has been full of geopolitical challenges for over six decades. It is through suggestion, the off-screen/off-camera, and the void that the narrative is articulated. The profusion of images of the Lebanese capital and its dramas are potentially summoned in the gaps, the interstices, and cracks.
The painful history of Lebanon can be read in hollows in this proposal and is revealed through the grids and curtains, in public or private spaces preserving the trace of the conflicts.
The form of the labyrinth becomes a metaphor of life in Lebanon where everyone carves their path, where fragility is a strength, where instability is stability.