Liverpool Biennial


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I spent a couple of days in Liverpool last week and managed to see quite a lot of the Biennial. It’s not got the tranquility of carless roads that Venice has, or the heat of Sao Paolo but it is the second most visited Biennial and last time attracted well over a million visitors. The event is spread over the city, in galleries empty shops and public spaces, with periphery events taking place over a much wider radius. The challenge is to see as much of it as you can, and given that I spent most of my first day at a meeting I didn’t have that much time. What I did see was really impressive. We registered as guests at St George’s Hall in the morning and headed over to the Walker Art Gallery first, just opposite. Unfortunately the opening party from the night before had gone on longer than anticipated and we were unable to view the exhibition while a stage was removed from the galleries…not to worry! I’m sure I’ll go back to see this year’s show which, although contributing to the Biennial event, is really an event in itself. We did however get to see some of the Wolfgang Tillmans interventions in the gallery spaces. It was particularly interesting to see what he had done with the Impressionist Gallery where he juxtaposed a bronze shepherd boy with other images of boys. The nine photographic images have recently been acquired by the Arts Council Collection.

We then walked along Lime Street and onto Renshaw Street, past the Futurist Cinema and the Cooperative which features seven of Liverpool’s key arts collectives.

At the top of Renshaw Street we came to the Touched Venue at number 52, the old Rapid Hardware store. Here I enjoyed the good photo work commenting on our materialist global society on the outside of the building, three very loud videos by Ryan Trecartin in the basement …well worth seeing, and some very dark painting and animation.

Next we headed for FACT to see Korean artist, Tehching Hsieh, who photographed himself on the hour for a year. I first saw this at Whitworth ages ago, but is presented here as a really good exhibition. Over at Open Eye Gallery…Morrissey gets a mention here in a really weird piece that implies the foretelling of Diana’s death in Smiths song lyrics.

Down at the Bluecoat, we sat in the LFC dressing room, liked Carol Rama, and got lost in a ribbon installation. The Tate at Albert Dock is home to a great display of a piece by Magdalena Abakanowicz from 1978/80. I loved Jamie Isenstein’s performance installation and a room of cardboard boats created under the guidance of Alfredo and Isabel Aquilizan.

We head towards Greenland Street and see City States at CUC. Here a series of international exhibitions initiated and supported by embassies, international agencies or galleries explore the cultural dynamics between cities and states. 74 artists from 23 countries are on show. I particularly liked Marianna Morkore and Rannva Karadottir (Faroe Islands) video performance in the Nordic Pavilion, Raouf Haj Yihya’s Square Meter computer game In the basement there was some interesting video and digital work in Media Landscape and Zone East.

We walked up towards the Cathedral, (We parked on Jamaica St so planned to come back to the A-Foundation at the end of the day) to see the The Temple of a Thousand Bells by Laura Belem in the Oratory. The bells in question were hand blown at the Glassblobbery near Corwen. They hang in the space and are wonderful. An atmospheric narrative accompanies the work and creates a mesmeric environment that is extraordinarily evocative in this particular building. Outside I was so pleased to see Tracey Emin’s sensitive bird.

In the Cathedral a video piece, up some steep stairs, by Danica Dakic.

Then back down to the Black-E to see the sword by Kris Martin and opposite at the Europleasure / Scadinavian Hotel you can see a good site responsive video.

Finally we returned to A Foundation, Bloomberg new contemporaries, a good Finnish artist, Antti Laitinen and the most amazing Japanese performance and work by Sachiko Abe. This was by far the most incredible piece at this year’s Biennial. The artist is seated high up and there is a feeling of the story of the girl spinning gold from straw. She sits there cutting strips of paper which fall from her high position. The cutting sound is amplified in the space. the strips lead to a large pile in the centre of the space. In the space beneath her a series of obsessively delicate drawings are presented and in another ante space a film of paper and elsewhere a meditation space with an ethereal light created from paper.


2 Responses to “Liverpool Biennial”

  1. I am absolutely amazed at the amount of stuff you managed to pack into that day at the biennial – it sounds fab !! Thanks for bringing d Marianna Morkore and Rannva Karadottir video to my attention – beautiful work !! I shall look into them further.

    You write very well of the experience. I also liked that last video (documentation) in this post with the girl up on the fire escape with the scissors ……………


  2. Great to hear about your Biennial experiences. I was in Liverpool for the Touched Conference on 18th. I was especially glad to hear Danica Dakic speak about her piece, ‘Grand Organ’ and Steven Connor’s contribution to the conference was powerful stuff. My most recent blog post mentions the impact of Steven’s talk on my appreciation and interpretation of work in the Extraordinary Measures exhibition at Belsay House.
    Would be great if you can make it to my own show ‘Blink UnBlink’ which opens in Liverpool very soon.

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