From the moment you enter the Monro, there is an eeriness to the location. Walking through what feels like a secret entrance up the stairs, one feels almost guilty and definitely out of place as you ignore the staff and restaurant and sneak up to the hotel rooms. From the offset, the location works intangibly with the theme and creates an emotional reaction in visitors.
As you walk up towards the Biennial piece, and a member of staff enters your eye line, they become a symbol of relief, a reminder to make you think ‘I am supposed to be here after all’. Although, they are not symbolic of the end of your psychological trip here: as you enter the first room where you find Janine Antoni’s ‘Umbilical’ (2000), a family heirloom spoon carved to represent a Mother’s hold and a child’s bite. The onlooker is forced to consider the role of guest and host between mother and child as well as the mouth and spoon, adding even more layers to the already complex issue – although I am unsure whether this is a good or bad thing.
For me, the highlight of the first room is the subtle message hidden on the wallpaper that dissolves and reappears as your attention flickers. The overlapping circles also show how both the role of the host and the guest interchange so easily. Dane Mitchell’s ‘Ghost Paper’ (2012) recreates Duchamp’s equation in a format that deceives and intrigues every visitor to the exhibition.
Dane Mitchell is also the creator of ‘Spectral Readings (Liverpool)’ (2012), in which ghost stories are told and hidden. This adds another dimension to the display of work in unison with ‘Ghost Paper’ (2012) as we are told to consider the haunted, cold vibe of the location as part of the art. Perhaps we are not the only Unexpected Guest in this space?
The second room we are able to enter is the star of the show, forcing each guest to examine their own presence, importance and identity within their surroundings. With obvious connotations to the haunted, the ‘unexpected guest’ takes a new and unusual setting. Intelligently curated and intrinsically created, this piece should quite possibly be the centrepiece at the Biennial’s dinner table.
As we discover our own disappearance and become forced to search for ourselves, timid and curious, we soon realise our reflection never existed. This piece of work is incredible and ‘reflects’ the entire purpose of the Biennial perfectly.
In Markus Kahre’s ‘No title’ (2012) sensory illusion is not to be missed, a work whose impression grows with each visit and is something you will want to bring friends and family back to see simply to watch their reactions. Kahre’s work is not to be dismissed after the immediate realisation of the work either, as smaller details soon unravel their disguise.
The wall in the hallway is very thin and temporarily placed; behind the curtains is a light replicating daylight. Did you notice how you cannot move the chairs? These are hooked on the floor to create a more realistic experience as the exact angle they sit is reflected. The tricks go beyond the obvious with depth here if you dare to look for them.
The Monro was a joy to visit, proactive in creating an emotional shift in guests and re-enacting the theme with fluidity. If you have a spare ten minutes on your lunch break, nip in and see if you can unravel the mind tricks here for yourself.