Eight Days A Week 2002 : Pete Clarke reviews the LIVERPOOL BIENNIAL
WHEN ASKED WHY HIS TEAM was so successful, a certain
football manager replied, "I buy in the best to nurture my own."
Hopefully this is the spirit that motivates the Liverpool Biennial,
incorporating 'International ZOOZ','The Independent','John Moores
22' the painting competition at the beautifully refurbished Walker
Art Gallery, 'Btoomberg New Contemporaries' at Static, and educational
events. The 'International' is curated by the major institutional
players in the city from the Tate Gallery, FACT (Foundation for Art
and Creative Technology) - an ambitious new media development - and
the BLuecoat Arts Centre, held in creative tension by 'cultural libero'
and director Lewis Biggs.
This is well suited to Liverpool's independent spirit
and often bloody-minded nature although it makes the biennial open
to easy criticism. However, making a distinctive biennial challenged
the local institutions, artists and curators to be more ambitious,
to assert and empower themselves. It is possible for a city to have
an international perspective with a particular regional sensibility
because of geography and its social and cultural history. This represents
a very significant cultural shift in the UK by the 'empowered regions'
like Merseyside, Manchester and the north-west of England with Newcastle
and the north-east looking outward and forward not backward and inward.
It breaks down into curated shows by the five 'established
artists' initiatives': Static, White Diamond, Parking Space, Basement
and Jump Ship Rat and a ratatouille of city-wide events generated
by Afoundation support. The artists' initiatives interestingly are
putting together projects weaving regional artists in collaboration
and dialogue with international colleagues. The ephemeral nature of
many of these projects could signify the lack of a cultural infrastructure
and perhaps the transitory is reflected in the economic realities
of contemporary practice.
He has recently been appointed Momart fellow at the Tate Liverpool. Static are also supporting Nina Edge to produce a publicly sited interventionist text project. The Last Futurist Exhibition, an installation by David Alker and Peter LiddeLl, recreates the his torically iconic and revolutionary Malevich 1915 exhibition in Petrograd.This theoretical, critical and intelligent project acts as a pertinent challenge to concepts of radicalism and the appropriation of avant-garde art that seems rooted in much contemporary practice.
Basement are moving upstairs to the attic to continue to bring artists to the city to spend time living and working together creating new installations influenced by location. Sue Leask and Margatretha Schoning from Basement create experimental installations often using light and water to remake spaces to generate evocative new meanings. They have invited guest artists Jyotee from India and Alexei Kostroma from Russia to share in the collaborative dialogue in a recently vacated packaging warehouse on Duke Street.
Julian Gillespi of Cook au van fame is bringing MAIS the international network of artists, facilitators and collaborators based in Koln and Berlin, to Liverpool. This promises to be an exciting mixture of diverse practices from Europe today. TAG, the artists' group including Karen Hickling, Sue Williams and Steve Rooney who occupy a space at the bottom of a tower block in Linosa Close, are developing a whole series of educational projects creating new audiences for contemporary art. Above them so to speak is'Further up in the air', the artists' initiative recreating a haven of challenging exhibitions and installations in the ex-council, high-rise flats.
Collect are a new initiative presenting two shows, an international film and video screening in Lark Lane and a repositioning of contemporary art from women exploring gender, sensibility and the decorative at the Blundell Street studios. A companion show from men is to follow. Jump Ship Rat are doing major projects in St John's market and the Parr Street space with crazy Heath Robinson-like machinery dominating the industrial space.
But what will the legacy of the biennial be and what does it represent for the visual culture of Merseyside? The hope is Liverpool will continue to transform itself developing local confidence to support and encourage risk taking, critical ambition and vibrant contemporary art, leading to more informed debate for artists, curators and the movers and shakers in the city. It is certain the Liverpool Biennial wiLl create the climate to facilitate a critical cultural continuum building up its international profile, networks and much-needed resources to develop the cultural infrastructure of Merseyside.
IS AN ARTIST BASED IN LIVERPOOL.