This post marks my fourth Liverpool Biennial. This year the theme is hospitality titled; ‘The Unexpected Guest’ and is the seventh contemporary arts biennial to take place in the city. I have never really noticed or even read too much into any of the themes for the biennial in previous years but this time I did find myself noticing a pattern emerging in the numbers of work about specific places, sites, ideas of identity or nationality, the home and the family cropping up in a lot. Either the themes of thresholds, borders and ‘welcomings’ under the umbrella of hospitality were more prevalent this biennial or quite simply I was paying more attention! Whichever the reason one thing I am certain of is that it was another varied, diverse and exciting display of some of the weirdest, most innovative and wonderful art I have seen in a long time. For those of you who may not be familiar with the biennial (naturally it takes place every two years) is an arts festival featuring national and international contemporary art which takes place in numerous locations throughout the city (usually between September and November). This year’s biennial features 242 artists in 27 locations including a programme of artists’ talks and events. So, a bit like Art Weeks in terms of its format of visitors being equipped with a map of locations within the city and setting out to see some ART! The following is a selection of some of my personal highlights and recommends, enjoy!
|(above) Markus Kahre 'No Title', 2012 -LIVERPOOL BIENNIAL LOCATION NO 9 THE MONRO|
Did I warn that this post may contain spoilers? Is it possible to ‘spoil’ art? If you’re reading this it may be already too late now, but the image pictured above of an installation by Markus Kahre is my favourite piece from the Biennial. The reason being was for its element of surprise in the same trompe l’oeil style that Magritte and the Surrealists used to apply in their paintings this piece does in reality. Read no further if you don’t want the illusion to be given away! After spending three days out in Liverpool scouring the galleries I was beginning to feel a bit disheartened from seeing so much film art, that was good but I was missing something a bit more experiential or hands on/tangible. So imagine my surprise upon seeing that the location I had been led to on my map, was not a gallery, but a pub! (The Monro to be precise) Upstairs in The Monro in what used to be the Inn was a series of rooms. I didn’t know what to expect but I wasn’t exactly expecting to see what you’d normally find in a room; in the way of a bed, a table, a chair, a lamp and a....er....mirror....? You see, I thought it was a mirror and anyone else walking into the room would think the same, as it was a fairly empty but albeit, ‘normal’ room. However, and this is where it gets spooky, if that was a mirror my reflection wasn’t in it! ‘Ok,’ I thought, ‘I know I’ve been spending some time alone up here in Liverpool and I haven’t really spoken to anyone for the last few days, but I’m pretty sure I still exist!’ The revelation happened pretty quickly, but I’m dramatising the thoughts I had at the time for affect, for as it turns out, what I thought was a mirror was actually a hole in the wall leading to an adjacent room in the pub that had been set up to be an exact mirror image of the room I was in. Clever, eh? I thought so and was even more intrigued when I noticed the light was off in the room in the reflection and on in the room I was in. I thought it was clever in its simplicity and liked the haunting effect it had. Within the context of the other art works (there are three) in this location it had extra poignancy and fitted the theme of host, guest, absence and presence.
|(above) Doug Aitken 'The Source' 2012 - LIVERPOOL BIENNIAL LOCATION NO 10 TATE LIVERPOOL|
That’s the thing about art, you think you’re onto something original and then it turns out that someone else has done the same thing only bigger (but not necessarily better). You thought Akomfrah’s three screens was impressive, well Doug Aitken has six! But we all know, less is more and whilst Aitken’s projections in ‘the round’ (they are in a circular room all playing simultaneously) are an impressive looking installation and immersive experience, the content of the films themselves was less appealing. In my opinion Akomfrah does it better! If anything they seemed a little self-gratuitous with cultural figures such as Jack White, Tilda Swinton and Mike Kelley (amongst others) discuss, ‘what is creativity?’ in relation to the roots of their own creative practices (a musician, actress and painter). Hrrmmm....it wasn’t as pretentious as I am maybe making it out to be, I just thought it was a bit too much like an arts documentary that had been ‘glammed’ up into a cool looking installation. It DID look good, especially at night, when it is projected onto the outside (seen in photo above) it just wasn't my favourite that's all.
(above) Patrick Murphy's pigeons on the roof of The Walker Gallery (also home to the John Moores painting prize)
What can I say? They’re colourful pigeons!
|(above) Camp and Furnace at the former 'A Foundation' at The Blade Factory -LIVERPOOL BIENNIAL LOCATION NO 25|
If the theme for this year’s biennial is ‘hospitality’ then no venue does it like, Camp and Furnace! What used to be the venue for the Bloomberg New Contemporaries is now a cosy cafe, bar, small gallery and massive event space for hire. Nothing says hospitality like a roaring fireplace, sofa, books and free toast! I wasn’t ‘wowed’ by the art at this venue but that didn’t matter as the venue itself embraced the hospitality theme to its core and I really welcomed the break from what was an extremely packed biennial. An important reminder that if you want to encourage more people to engage with art that normally wouldn’t then the first step is often the simplest, make people feel welcome...or if all else fails give them free toast!
Liverpool Biennial 2012 is on until 25th November! Check out more on: http://www.biennial.com/
* TAKEN FROM: http://www.icaboston.org/exhibitions/permanent-collection/artists/attia/
** TAKEN FROM: http://www.pictureville.net/2012/09/john-akromfrahs-biennial-films-engage.html
*** TAKEN FROM: http://liverpoolbiennial.co.uk/programmes/festivals/whatson/0/4/2012/595/bloomberg-new-contemporaries-2012/