Everton to Chinatown: What to catch at the Liverpool Biennial...
An art event of this scale is bound to have misses as well as hits, but we found some gems at the hospitality-themed Liverpool Biennial, not least a tour of Anfield's ‘ghost town' terraces which you can catch this Saturday...
After leaving the Los Angeles artist Fritz Haeg chewing contemplatively on an edible flower outside his project base in Everton Park, our tour took a surprising turn. Microphone in hand, our guide Carl approached us over the brow of the hill and urged us back to our bus with patter straight from Phoenix Nights.
'Isn't the view amazing?' He handed out an old photo of the same vista, rows of workers houses in tact, pre-'slum' clearance, then one of rubble - the cheap tower blocks built to replace them but rightly deemed failures and demolished. Some people from that ex-community drive back here for picnics where their houses stood, we discover.
Moving on, Carl tells us to ‘get into the zone' - a regeneration zone. The plot thickens as we pass nonsensical housing projects designed for 'market renewal'. There are striking quantities of broken glass in the back gardens of one terrace. We round the corner and pull up - of course, these houses are empty. Signs say 'items of value have been removed from the premises'.
We hear a recording made by Carl's friend - someone he used to play with on this street as a kid. She lived at number 50. The account of her family's forced eviction and acceptance of an exorbitant loan (to be passed down as an heirloom) hammers home the real effect of the housing schemes that have blighted this area for the past decade or so.
Someone, somewhere needed to tick a box to ensure EU funding, she says - this area had to be labelled ‘deprived'. But what she remembers as a place of joy is now a slew of tinned-up facades. Carl's chat always remained good-humoured, somehow only fortifying the impact of this strange devastation on unlearned ears.
Later we have refreshments at the 2up 2Down/ Homebaked project HQ, a reclaimed local bakery that will run apprenticeships and hopefully provide a proper space for the thinned-out local community to meet. Initiated by Dutch artist Jeanne van Heeswij for the last Biennial here, it's picked up awards already, and the baking is great.
2up 2Down/ Homebaked at Mitchell's Bakery is working for positive change in the Anfield neighbourhood. Photo: Jerry Hardman-Jones
I look out the window - the Boston billionaire-owned Anfield stadium looms high just over the road, and the sense of injustice here feels just as large. Get on this tour if you can, or at least make a visit to the bakery for food for thought as well as tea and cake.
The Anfield Home Tour is free, book here or call +44 (0)845 220 2800 for Saturday 22 September.
Independent tour guide Carl Ainsworth (right) and friend. Photo: Jerry Hardman-Jones
The best of the rest....
The John Moores Painting Prize featured much so-so work but much to excite, with evidence of figuration in rude health. See more on that here.
Don't miss the opportunity to get inside Cunard building. One of the city's grand Three Graces, it was a point of departure and entry for Atlantic crossings. In its warren of rooms there's some good art on show too.
An artwork in its own right: the Cunard Building. Photo: Jerry Hardman-Jones
The installation as a whole was titled The Unexpected Guest. A nicely absurd installation by Tunisian Nadia Kaabi-Linke features a church congregation collectively answering questions asked at UK immigration - posed in ecclesiastic tones by a pair of disembodied lips.
Selected series by Christodoulos Panayiotou using 1960s and ‘70s photographs got to the silliness of civic officialdom and its approach to culture, showing the smartly dressed appraising the likes of Roman amphitheatres.
Estate agents signs by the Danish group Superflex looked at home in the cavernous, carpeted but empty hall, and struck a chord with Liverpool's own story as (real) notices dotted the city, even across the road from this landmark.I was surprised to find the Bloomberg New Contemporaries exhibition (drawn from students and new graduates) this engaging, after previous years felt thin. It carried its usual whiff of the zeitgeist, but seemed meaty with it, and included paintings with character and maturity missing from some of the John Moores selected works. The show moves to London in November.
Ming Wong's take on Polanski's Chinatown was a diverting exercise in cultural excavation, with brilliant vintage film posters - and an exploration of ‘the Chinese detective' - but didn't warrant too much time.
From Bryan Dooley's Star Trek series of photographs of an American running team. Image courtesy the Artist and New Contemporaries
The Open Eye Gallery displays some risqué images taken in parks by Japanese photographer Kohei Yoshiyuki who retreated from working after the furore surrounding their publication in the ‘70s. Though it opens out the hospitality theme well, the torch-navigable installation also underlined the one-dimensionality of sex in some culture.
Tate Liverpool's Thresholds exhibition included some winners – from Gilbert & George at the top of their game, Thomas Hirschhorn and Keith Arnatt – and overall balanced humour with politics.
The Doug Aitken / David Adjaye collaborative hut outside was another story and felt commercial and poorly executed, though one can imagine wondering in and chancing across a sound bite of interest – the framework simply felt like it was obstructing the content.
Many works on show in the Cunard Building found a kind of accord with that space; on a larger scale this was felt across the entire event in relation to its host. As at last year's Folkestone Triennial, the Biennial's theme chimes with an atmosphere present in parts of the city, and its status at the edge of a landmass. At its most successful points it drew on the poetry of place and looked in as well as out.
Top left image: Freya Douglas-Morris' painting They Visited Twice (detail). Image courtesy the Artist and Bloomberg New Contemporaries
Sorry no reviews have been returned.
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