Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Art Review : Liverpool Biennale

"Liverpool’s most pretentious art gallery – it doesn’t even have any art in it!"

If you don’t make it to the Biennale you might read this to gain an insight in to the work that you won’t get to see. I saw a lot of art the day I visited, exhausted by the time I collapsed on to the train amongst a days worth of East to West detritus, so how can I represent all of that to you, the reader? The ability of the press to canonise the here and now is often overlooked, but Liverpool based arts organisation, Static, have built on their ongoing work with the Static Pamphlet and decided to establish the Press Corps. Frustrated by the way previous press coverage of the Biennale has neglected the contribution of the Independents sector they have turned their vast space in to itself, simply laying on some luxuries for the press; free tea and coffee, wireless internet, sofas, fax machine. As a member of the public you may enter the viewing gallery only, to observe, but at all times maintain the privacy of the press.

In questioning the role of the press within the art world, The Press Corps reveals and magnifies the role of the artist run organisation; the often suppressed political potential available to groups that work outside of the institutionalised system is amplified. And it piques your interest in what else is out there in this city; what goes on here that allows this group to have the nerve to show their building off so well, unsullied by art?

Approaching the ‘Independent District’ I start to feel like this is where it is all at, there are large groups of people spilling in to the road, sofa’s and tables laid out in front of warehouse doors, the Buddliea Building is an incredible warehouse that has so much foliage growing out of it that it looks like it needs a shave, then there is afoundation’s newly acquired bus shed and the expansive buildings just seem to go on forever. The shear ambition of scale is quite a challenge to the work inside. Not all of it lives up to it but there are some moments of genius and humour that sooth my art-wearied legs a little.

In the Flux show, Oliver East discovers a violent reaction from the cows he wants to read to on Stretham Common. Dryly documented in wall text and video, the simple narrative hooks you in with a great comic twist. Down the road at Jump Ship Rat’s well-received group show in the Blade Factory is Jacques Chaucat and his mad Rowland Emmett style kinetic sculptures. A larger than life car made out of what looks like the bin yard of a student house, moves and billows, lights up and makes a clatter in the entrance to the Factory. A comical introduction that doesn’t really prepare you for the depth of the political commentary explored upstairs in ‘Streets of Desire’, where vibrant music and colours contrast with grainy images of public floggings and violence, harrowing images of one human lashing out against another.

Nicky Magliulo’s ‘Elton John is a ****’ steals the New Contemporaries show, summing up all the 18-30 holidays, lads beach bonzana’s and Holiday Rep reality TV in approximately two minutes. Watching through the lens of a perched digital video camera we see a tanned and muscle bound man in his early twenties, oblivious to the surveillance he is under, he sprays himself with tanning oil and lies back to sing along to Elton John. Encapsulating and amusingly poignant.

Upstairs, David Rowland doesn’t mince his titles as he declares ‘Bill Viola is Rubbish’. His direct approach, through a technically competent short video, involves him walking around himself in a back garden. I’d like to suggest that this kind of work is the reason why I enjoyed my trip, and why I prioritised the Independent sector over the plethora of art on offer. It is also why Static can leave out the art in order to bring the art to the forefront. It gives us room to think and then we have room to laugh.

for more information see :
Liverpool Biennale
Press Corps
Jump Ship Rat


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