Artists Edit Their Own Wall Text at 2015 Biennale de Lyon

The site of the 2015 Biennale de Lyon. Photo: Biennale de Lyon.

Visitors to museums, galleries, and biennials rely on wall texts assembled by curators and scholars to give context to artworks and learn more about featured artists. But rarely do we consider their relative subjectivity or the fact that they might even be incorrect.

At the 2015 Biennale de Lyon, several artists apparently feel that the text accompanying their work falls under the “dead wrong” category, and they’re not taking it lying down. Many have crossed out sentences and have written in new information using ballpoint pens.

Collector, Biennale attendee, and avid Twitter user Alain Servais first spotted the edits yesterday, documenting them on social media. Among the artists protesting their descriptions are Darren Bader, Lucie Stahl, Guan Xiao, Camille Blatrix, Klaus Weber, and Johannes Kahrs.

While some of the edits made were substantial, Bader wrote at the bottom of a description of his work: “Some of this is untrue.”

Sometimes, the most laconic statements speak volumes. (To add insult to injury, the artist’s profile photo is missing from the site.)

The site of the 2015 Biennale de Lyon.  Photo: Biennale de Lyon.

The site of the 2015 Biennale de Lyon.
Photo: Biennale de Lyon.

“The text was fun and silly in a non-native-speaking English sort of way,” Bader told Hyperallergic. “But it misrepresents both works it’s supposed to represent. That’s all I think I can say right now. I don’t know who first did it, but we were told to mark up the labels if we saw things that weren’t correct.”

It’s unclear who exactly is responsible for the murky, inaccurate texts. Bader noted that neither the artists nor the Biennale’s curator, Ralph Rugoff, were consulted on them. Some of the labels have reportedly been glued over with new texts, however, some artists have complained that even the new statements do not reflect the intentions of their work.

Biennale representatives did not respond to a request for comment by the time of publication.

Photo: Twitter/@alainservais.

Photo: Twitter/@alainservais.

Ironically, the theme of the Biennale’s 2013 iteration,”Meanwhile…Suddenly, and Then” focused on artists’s abilities to craft their own stories. While the inaccuracies are unfortunate for both artists and visitors alike, the action taken by the artists highlight the need for a degree of skepticism on the part of the viewer when reading materials that may or may not have been produced with the approval of the creator.

However, Art Newspaper reports that “a spokeswoman for Ralph Rugoff, the biennial’s guest curator, assures us that the biennial bigwig has OK-ed the arty scribblings, proof indeed that Ralph is as chilled as they come on the (otherwise stuffy) curatorial front.”

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