The prologue of this story relates a desire, shared by four people, to create an exhibition space that puts the artwork and the discourse on an equal footing. The launching of the story is also its trigger element: the rental, in 2011, of a fifteen-square-metre space and its adjacent window in the Guillotière neighbourhood (Lyon 7th district). Like a tiny island the size of a matchbox, Bikini adopted the two-room premises with an installation and a text displayed in the window. While this adventure reads like a novel, with each intervention as a chapter, the intrigue is fragmentary and the authors constantly changing. The first exhibition was that of an anonymous artist accompanied by a statement resembling a manifesto signed by the name of the place rather than a group of individuals. The founders, Hugo Pernet, Noémie Razurel, Marie Bassano, and Simon Feydieu, thus decided to disappear to make way for their guests. Feydieu, who took the helm in 2014, defines himself more as a “manager” than an artistic director. “Free through its voluntary nature,” in his words, this ‘associative activist’ says modestly that he “prefers being a passionate amateur than a professional,” which does not prevent him from having to account for the space’s activity to the government and the regional council, in exchange for a small subsidy. Despite the fact that the venue is coordinated by an artist and that each event has a DIY dimension to it, Bikini seeks above all to escape definitions, including that of an artist-run space, implying an independence whose spirit it shares, but not its state. The annual programme is therefore punctuated by five exhibitions, favouring the production of new works and the invitation of an artist from Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes. From the outset, it has been based particularly on one implacable rule: the cohabitation of a limited number of artworks and a critical or fictive text within a closed area – an in-camera space that can lead to clashes if the word flirts with the conceptual artwork and liberates itself from commentary. In the same window, eight adhesive frames highlight the pagination. The arrangement plays the role of a quasi-commercial logotype and announces the forthcoming publication. From the beginning, the layout of text and image – designed by graphic designers Huz & Bosshard – prefigured their future compilation, as if each project were devised in terms of its archival destiny.1 The first edition bringing together the outline of the 2011 to 2017 programme was thus presented in February 2018. In this story, the “text” is above all produced for this context: it is a written document and not immaterial content that is infinitely replicable through a variety of media.2 The conception of an original typography updated with each episode attests to this. As for the guest artists, they must take the codes of the shop window into consideration: a frontal point of view, distanciation from the artwork, bright reflections on the windows… its radical inaccessibility, forming the basis for the fetishisation of commodities. These parameters, which influence the creation of works as much as their reception, are not very visible in the images published in lines and on paper, favouring detail views. By detaching the artworks from their context of display, the photograph is not intended as a reproduction, but as a point of view of the exhibition. From the beginning, Gilles Furtwängler and Stephen Felton’s interventions – it was the latter’s first solo exhibition in France – also prevented us from “seeing all”, thus countering the communication strategy: the former’s posters superposed letters, onomatopoeia, aphorisms, and sensual injunctions, to the point of rendering the message uncertain (Bourrelets, ficus. Imprimer des images dans le cerveau des gens, 2012), while the latter’s pink and blue triangles revealed the enticing element of minimalist art and let us imagine what might be going on behind the scenes (Top, bottom, 2012). Others sought to create an illusion: Patrick Lowry adapted museum conventions to a pocket-handkerchief, to the point of absurdity, reproducing the staircases of the Tate Modern almost identically (Crushing the Tate, 2012). There were those who presented the already obsolete home appliances of the future (Antonin Giroud-Delorme, The Spectacular Commodity, 2013) and others who preferred to put on a pedestal the tools used to make artworks that had been left back at the studio (Octave Rimbert-Rivière, Le secret des moules, 2016). There were even those who referred the customer to another boutique and filled the space with immaterial pictorial sensibility… (Aloïs Godinat, Unfarnness, 2013, in association with La Salle de bain, Lyon). With no directive line presented, Bikini is “a bit of a mediator,” according to Simon Feydieu: between the host and its guests, but also between artists, critics, and curators. “I want to participate in the development of other people’s work,” he confides. We are willing to wager that adventurous wanderers will find here “the fleeting pleasure of circumstance”.3
"The world was made in order to result in a beautiful book.” Mallarmé, Stéphane. Remark made to Jules Huret, who published it in his Enquête sur l’évolution littéraire (1891); as translated in Stéphane Mallarmé (1969) by Frederic Chase St. Aubyn, p. 23.
Morsel, Joseph. “Les sources sont-elles ‘le pain de l'historien’?” Hypothèses vol. 7, no. 1 (2004): 271–286.
Baudelaire, Charles. “Le peintre de la vie moderne”, Le Figaro, 1863.