Art Feast sent Stephanie Whalley to review Liverpool Museums latest exhibition Liverpool Doors a unique art installation combining Roger McGough’s poetic skills with the love of his home city. The Liverpool Doors exhibition features doors from across the city, donated to Roger and book artist Mark Cockram, who have created the installation along with students from Liverpool John Moores University’s (LJMU) School of Art and Design.
Last month saw the opening of The Liverpool Doors exhibition – a giant, disembodied book of poems from one of the city’s most prolific poets, Roger McGough, with doors as pages. The twenty-five doors were provided by places including the Everyman Theatre, Strawberry Fields Children’s Home and the Liverpool Football Club trophy room; little slices of history. The doors were then to be used as canvases, by students of Liverpool John Moores University School of Art & Design, to create artwork from extracts of McGough’s poetry and displayed in the new Museum of Liverpool.
The art installation was funded through the support of various trusts, foundations, corporate and individual donation a well as several major funders, including the Northwest Regi
onal Development Agency. It is the first new exhibition to be showcased in the Museum of Liverpool since it’s opening in December 2011.
Prior to my viewing of said exhibition, I tapped Roger McGough’s name into the Google search bar to indulge in a little preliminary research and became engrossed in his poetry. One, which particularly captivated my attention, was McGough’s, Funicular Railway, with it’s gripping narrative recounting the tale of a potentially fatal train accident.
However my background reading then not only just allowed for further, contextual knowledge but also gave rise to worries, which I had not previously encountered. These were fears that the lyrical creations would disinherit their charisma; their moving atmospherics becoming somewhere lost in translation from written word to visual art. In my honest opinion, my suspicions were somewhat confirmed. Unfortunate as I found it and as much as I tried to quash the feelings, I was disappointed.
I was mostly disenchanted with the set-up of the exhibition space, with the doors back-to-back, looking nothing less than redundant. If the treasured artifacts had have been hung or assembled in a continuous row, it may have given more justice to what is a fantastic concept with massive amounts of potential. Having said this, since leaving the exhibition and writing this article almost a week later, I haven’t forgotten the door, which was transformed into a miniature, multi-story car park or the door which spilt it’s poetic content from it’s dusty surface onto the museum floor.
Also, despite the McGough magic making it only partially intact onto the various doors, there was certainly an undeniable air of sentimentality penetrating the exhibition space. The emotional attachment of the subject matter to its display venue and the absorbed onlookers was a refreshing rejuvenation of the often-obscure nature of art exhibitions. The physical presence of each door brought nostalgia into three dimensions, breathing history into a modern space; a touching mergence of old and new. It may stem from my personal affiliation with the city of Liverpool but the reminiscent ambience was perhaps the most impressive feature of the spectacle – art by accident.
All in all, the aim was achieved from McGough’s collaboration with book artist, Mark Cockram and their collaboration with the local community. The history of Liverpool was celebrated and brought to life with great success. However, I have been far more effected since the preview than I was upon initial viewing and it is a quote from McGough himself that can, perhaps, best describe my experience at The Liverpool Doors exhibition: “to achieve wisdom, arrive after the event”. I’m positively itching to get my hands on a blank door, just screaming creative potential and use my favourite McGough masterpiece as inspiration to show ‘em how it’s done! In fact, I might just do so.