Since 2008, the biennale has been housed in a former weaponry manufacturer and expanded its scope. It's a vast site where exhibitions are sprawled out in a raw, brutal setting. Titled 'Working Promesse: les mutations du travail', the 10th anniversary edition is themed around shifting work paradigms and features 10 exhibitions. Some of these deal, a little vaguely, with mutations of work, such as imitating co-working and hacking spaces or imagining a high-tech, future workplace where plants overgrow computers in a competition of nature versus machines.
Detroit being this year's 'guest city', the Public Design Trust of Detroit has curated an exhibition, titled 'Footwork'. The link between Detroit and St Etienne is that both have industrial histories and are striving to reinvent themselves as creative hubs. Exploring the future of network-based working models, 'Footwork' includes photography, design and objects. A nice exhibit is the lovingly customised bicycles by the East Side Riders, a club set up by brothers Mike and Dywayne Neeley to encourage locals to take up cycling and modify their bikes with personality and passion.
The biennale continues off-site in St-Etienne Châteaucreux train station, where the Arep designlab – in collaboration with the SNCF (France's national train company) – has installed a co-working area. A long wooden table has partition spaces for laptops and rechargers for electronic devices, enabling travellers to sit down on benches and do some work whilst waiting for their train. The innovative idea would be a welcome addition to train stations all over France. Arep's project is on view and free to use until 17 April 2017.