‘Liverpool Biennial 2016 explores fictions, stories and histories taking viewers on a series of voyages through time and space, drawing on Liverpool’s past, present and future’ – Biennial Guide
If this summary makes this years Liverpool Biennial sound rather complicated, well, actually it is. And that is not all; when you add on exhibitions at the Tate, the John Moores Prize exhibition, Bloomberg Contemporaries, and a whole series of fringe events that also are running alongside, then it all becomes rather bewildering.
The aforementioned ‘‘voyages’ actually take the form of six episodes namely: Ancient Greece, Chinatown, Children’s Episode, Monuments from the Future and Flashback.
The Tate is a good starting point for all of this with a new vision of Ancient Greece. Reflecting for example upon the neoclassical architecture throughout the city, contemporary artists have been invited to exhibit alongside exhibits taken largely from the famous local Blundell collection of Greek artefacts.
It is fine, but better is to visit the Tate’s other current exhibitions, both excellent: Francis Bacon: Invisible Rooms which has been cleverly placed alongside Maria Lassnig – each using the body, often distorted, deformed, ageing or fragile.
Across town at the impressive redbrick Victorian Cains Brewery is a selection of episodes arranged around the hall and in to Andrea Angelidakis’ spiral Collider installation. In the centre is the film Dogsy Ma Bone from Marvin Gaye Chetwynd, made with local children over recent months, and inspired by Betty Boop’s A Song A Day and Brecht’s Threepenny Opera.
Even if the whole installation looks somewhat like a student degree show, there are some excellent individual works.
Around the corner at the Blade Factory is an impressive highlight, a ‘Flashback’ from Mark Leckey. His film Dream English Kid draws on scraps of film, TV archive and ephemera, recreating events from his life between the seventies and nineties in a compelling dream-like sequence.
Another highlight is Lara Favaretto’s Momentary Monument: The Stone in Rhiwlas Street, Toxteth – a monument perhaps to a destroyed community.
Two more ‘ Flashback’ artists are being exhibited at FACT. Lucy Beech’s new film Pharmakon shows downstairs whilst upstairs, there are a series of interesting films and installations from Krzysztof Wodiczko, who has been working with the homeless and marginalised.
The Open Eye Gallery at Mann Island has devoted the downstairs gallery to Koki Tanaka’s ‘Flashback’ revisiting of an 1985 protest march. It is not particularly gripping, but upstairs a series of clever, witty and thought-provoking videos by Ramin Heirzadeh, Rokni Haerizadeh & Hesam Rehmanian (see main image) are better.
Up at the historic and important ABC Cinema (scandalously being allowed to fall derelict) is a ‘Flashback’ – a rather ponderous film from Giraud & Siboni and a selection of sculptures. Better, and out of the biennial at the adjacent Walker, is the 2016 John Moores Painting Prize exhibition. Won by the likes of Peter Doig, Rose Wylie, Sir Peter Blake and John Hoyland the quality is, as expected, exceptional. Michael Simpson was this years winner of the £25,000 cheque.
Bloomberg’s New Contemporaries at the Bluecoat is a little disappointing, but at least the courtyard in one of Liverpool’s most beautiful and oldest buildings (a Queen Anne style gem), is a great place to relax with a coffee away from the hustle and bustle. Of the associate artists we particularly loved Lindsey Bull at the India Buildings.
Outside the biennial, as well as the Tate, Walker & Bluecoat why not try going a little farther? There are Sir Peter Blake’s Dazzle Ferry, Crosby Beach for Antony Gormley’s Another Place or the Lady Lever Art Gallery at Port Sunlight.
Whilst the actual biennial ends up as rather a curatorial muddle, it really does not matter that much. It is best to ignore any set itinerary and just get out and about, explore the city and some great venues – in and out of the biennial. You are sure to find some interesting surprises along the way.
The Liverpool Biennial is at various venues until 16 October 2016.