Review: Scouse Style: Alternative Guide to Liverpool

Scouse Style: Alternative Guide to Liverpool
SWAP: UK/Ukraine artist residency programme

Words by Patrick Kirk-Smith

While I can’t advocate SWAP’s alternative guide to Liverpool as a genuinely helpful source of tourist information, I can definitely get on board with it as a work of inquisitive wonder. The publication, produced with support from Liverpool Biennial and British Council, is the product of an eight week artist residency between Ukraine and Liverpool.

The artists (Kateryna Berlova, Mitya Churikov, Alevtina Kakhidze and Oleksandr Burlaka) seem to have focused their time on actually living in Liverpool, rather than just making work here. The book is a semi-surreal adventure through the parts of Liverpool that tourists tend not to see, and provides a fascinating perspective of Liverpool’s unseen cultures.

If you do happen to have picked it up and found yourself disappointed with the lack of map, it’s worth pulling out of your bag again for a second look. The clue as to why is on the cover. It might have the sleek look and harshly placed sponsor logos of a city map, but it also says Chicken Kyiv. A very intentional bit of daftness that you’re just not going to find on anything in the Merseytravel office. Inside the conflicted cover is an exhibition of work by the four artists, looking at places we might see every day, and reminds us to turn our heads again.

The result is a seriously confusing array of things that makes you wonder what kind of city we actually live in. From morally questionable ice cream men, to garden statues of John Lennon’s head, Liverpool is absolutely full of weird and wonderful mistakes that add indefinitely to our quality of life. So it’s unsurprising that this book ended up as quirky as it did.

As someone who’s fairly susceptible to a folly or two, I was very taken by Katetyna Berlova’s work, which imagines new histories for Liverpool. Her rejigged architectural landscape includes some of England’s most recognisable follied buildings. And in a city that is full of purposeless, but beautiful things, they fit perfectly. As, curator, Lizaveta German puts it, this work came to life “in the city where ventilation towers look like palaces, and where the world’s fifth largest cathedral hosts Friday night barbecues, it’s very easy to lose track of buildings’ purposes.”

So all things considered, this little book could save you a lot of time next time you’ve got a friend staying and they ask you for something different to see in Liverpool. The Alternative Guide can’t possibly tell you where something might be, but it reminds you why you love Liverpool. What’s amazing is that its complied by a group of Ukranian artists that were just passing through.

Scouse Style is available at nearly all Biennial venues for free.