Andy visits the Paul Rooney Biennial Exhibition at the Victoria Gallery & Museum

Having discovered the Victoria Gallery & Museum at Light Night this year I’m always glad of the excuse to return. So when I saw they were part of the Biennial I thought I would pop in to see what was on offer.

Once again I was shown the way to the relevant gallery by friendly gallery staff.  I was immediately interested to see that the featured artist was from Liverpool as the majority of artists in the Biennial are from around the world. I was disconcerted to see that three of the installations were video installations as this is a medium I’m unfamiliar with, but thought I would spend some time here anyway and see how I got on. To my surprise I found myself watching all four installations in full.

I discovered a scouse wit and irreverence which looked at themes of social interaction and memory. I also detected a strong melancholy edge. The three video installations were beautifully filmed and held my interest. All three were in strangely familiar territory whether it was a lonely service station, the derelict Futurist cinema or the excruciating world of the corporate away-day.  Characters were familiar whether they be would be stand-up comics struggling to find a killer joke or office workers on an away-day, one of whom is distracted from the proceedings. Literary references abound including Liverpool writer Malcolm Lowry, and French musical film, Umbrellas of Cherbourg. This element was extended as there was a book of short stories to accompany the exhibition and the final piece was a literary work that was projected on to the wall.

If planning a visit I would encourage enough time to take in the installations in full and not just sample them as fellow visitors were doing. If time is short I would recommend watching the four minute ‘Small Talk’, which is a pair of videos shot of a service station in 2001 and 2010 when it was a car valeting venue. I would wait to see the start to get the full effect; this is because each video has subtitles which creates a conversation between them. I enjoyed the wit that was allowed to shine through, the questions of identity and whether things are progressing or regressing , and the development of some narrative and the ability to question memory.

One of the features of the Biennial is that it opens up spaces that we often don’t have the chance to visit or that we overlook. In this case it was great to be back in the Victorian splendour of the gallery and seeing inside the now-derelict Futurist cinema which is now festering on Lime Street.

I suggest you get your Biennial brochures out and put a big circle around venue 20, the Victoria Gallery & Museum, when you have a reasonable amount of time pay a visit. It will be great to hear via the comments section what others think.