This page documents our visit to the Liverpool Biennal on the 18th and 19th October 2018.
Walker Art Gallery
Our first stop of the trip was the Walker Art Gallery for the John Moores Painting Prize the UK’s longest running painting competition having started in 1957 and run for 60 years.
The winner Jacqui Hallum with her piece King and Queen of Wands, an ink painting on cotton fabric. The piece is inspired by a plethora of imagery taken from tarot cards, illustrations in Art Nouveau childrens books, medival woodcuts and leaded glass windows.
I was initially enthralled by the lightness and the fluidity of the piece and intrigued by the essence of childlike storytelling that left me wanting to know more. Always impressed by work on fabric it was refreshing to see that this competition is embracing painting in the broadest sense.
I was also very taken with the piece called One Hundred Harvests by Liz Elton. Again I was initially struck by the etherealness of the fabric and the tactile nature of the piece as it floated airily with the movement of air in the room. Made from water miscible oil on recycling bags stitched together with silk thread, it references our relationship with recycling and the way we discard our food resources so easily.
St Georges Hall
The piece Reenactment of Heaven by Inci Eviner is a piece that was commisioned for the Liverpool Biennale and considers the position of women in heaven, dismissing perceptions in societies where women bow to that greater masculine authority. A unique film that distorts one’s perception, based on a series of drawings and recording using a green screen the lower part uses many props and masks that make you question reality. Interesting use of two projectors and the impeccable cross over between the projections in the centre.
The work Keicheyuhea (2017) by the artist Aslan Gaisumov (who also has the piece People of No Consequence (2016) on display at the Victoria Gallery and Museum. This piece shows the artists grandmother returning to her homeland 73 years after the Soviet deportation of her people to Central Asia with her community the Chechen and the Ingush people. A very moving piece where the impact of what had happened in this lady’s early life very apparent. Watching her as she comes to terms with the enormity of her return as memories of her life here come flooding back.
The screening in the courtroom at St Georges Hall is a film called Two Meetings and a Funeral by Naeem Mohaiemen reflects on the political coalition of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation (OIC) and shows where conventient alliances were made during the struggle for UN Recognition by the Bangladshi and the Palestinian decolonisation and the Portuguese in South Africa.
Open Eye Gallery
The work Nigerian Monarchs by George Osodi depict regional rulers from Nigeria in their ceremonial regalia that now represent a long lost power. Referencing the colonial past of Europe and that some of these ruler’s ancestors were kings at the time of slavery. An attempt to redress inaccurate represntation by photographing these rulers in their stately and dignified manner. Personnally, I would have like to have seen photographs of their wider community with these images.
The Intermediates (2015-ongoing) by Haegue Yang is an overwhelmingly immersive environment that refers to both traditional arts and craft and modern production methods and questions the definition of paganism. Recordings of wildlife from the British Library, Suggestions of folk tradition, such as the maypole and a wallpaper that brings modern hsitory and pagan tradition together is most definitely an onslaught to the senses that brings about much afterthought in an attempt to make sense of the many representations.
I was keen to see the work Your face is / not enough (2016) by Kevin Beasley which gathers NATO issued gas masks, microphone stands and megaphones into an installation of unique tribal-esque masks made from pigmented foam and other materials. These items that reflect control of an overriding authority alongside individual or collective acts of protest, power and protection.
The Cheyenne-style headresses whose feathers are carved from the soles of Nike trainrs are a fascinating collection of sculptures. Made by the artist Brian Jungen, the pieces Warrier 1, 3 and 4 allude to pride and determination in the indigenous communities, and reflect the effects of colonisation and remnants of conflict.
I was especially moved by the piece, The marks left behind (2014) by Duane Linklater. In fact initially I felt so repulsed that I didn’t even want to go into the room with this installation. However, I put on my brave boots and in I went and although I didn’t stay long it was long enough to gain some insight into the fur trade in Canada. The skunk pelts very much suggest the life of the animal and their spirit that some believe remains even in death, a consideration on cultural loss, social anmesia and family identity in the context of current and historical lives of the indigenous people. A psychologically very powerful piece which had a huge impact on me. I didn’t photograph this piece.
Another Place by Antony Gormley is an installation of 100 cast iron sculptures – cast in his own image extending over a 3km stretch of beach, all looking out to sea towards the North Wales coast, in a seemingly silent moment of contemplation. This was the end of our first day and the perfect time to view the sculptures, just as the sun was setting.
Variations on a Ghost by Abbas Akhavan references the destruction of ancient sculptures depicting the Assyrain deity Lamassu (half man-half lion). This piece is constructed using a technique call dirt ramming where soil and water are compacted together to produce a sculptural element. This piece will deteriorate and change over time developing a hard grey stone-like crust suggesting the deterioration of the destroyed sculptures over time.
I particularly wanted to see the work by filmmaker Agnes Varda at Fact. A three changel video installation that portrays a poetic outlook on the temporality and the flow of human life. The three films are Documenteur (1981), Vagabond (1985) and The Gleaners (2000) and I was most drawn to the film Vagabond which instigated a strong emotional reaction in me. The films question the effect images have on our personal and collective memory. One’s own experiences in life will definitely have an impact on our perception of this video installation.
Liverpool Anglican Cathedral
The visit to Liverpool Anglican Cathedral was quick but interesting in particular with the Message of Love by Tracy Emin and a quick visit to the Whispering Arch. Definitely a must for another visit when I have more time.
Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral
Part of the large project, Time Moves Quickly, the commision by Ryan Gander of five bench link sculptures behind the Liverpool Metropolital Catherdral reconfigured a model of the modernist cathedral by Frederick Gibberd into simplistic building blocks. These were then reassembed by schoolchildren of Liverpool and reproduced large scale to create these five benches.
Victoria Gallery and Museum
Whilst at Victoria Gallery and Museum we visited two specific pieces:
- People of No Consequence (2016) by Aslan Gaisumov
- Tightrope (2015) by Taus Makhacheva
People of No Consequence is by the artist Aslan Gaisumov who also has the piece Keicheyuhea (2017) on display at St Georges Hall. This is a recording of the first meeting of a group of Chechen and Ingush survivors from the Soviet Deporation of 1944 to Central Asia. The film proceeds to document the survivors as they take their seats in preparation for this meeting.
The piece Tightrope shows the fifth generation tightrope walker Rasul Abakarov, transports 61 artworks across a tightrope from one hilltop to another in the mountainous region of Dagestan. He attempts almost impossible feats in his quest to move the artworks and one is not entirely sure that what you are seeing is actually real.
Great George Street
Banu Cennetoglu has installed The List at Great George Street, originally compiled by United for Intercultural Action and distributed by The Guardian on World Refugee Day on 20th June 2018. Tracing information that relates to the deaths of more than 34,000 refugees and migrants in Europe since 1993.
This piece of work has fascinated me, not only because of the sheer scale of the list, but because of the meticulous archiving and the story associated with the list and the subsequent removal and damage at the Great George Street in Liverpool.