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Book review: Post-it: Independents Biennial Writers-in-Residence 2018

Eight writers, four months, two books. What happens when you ask writers to respond to something that is itself evolving? In this case, a book that functions like an anthology, reads in peaks and answers few questions.

Post-it, written by Richie Billing, Jess Fenna, Bernadette McBride, Paul McDermott, Marjorie Morgan, Mark Simmonds and Callan Waldron-Hall, is an outstandingly accurate reflection of the festival it set out to document. Independents Biennial 2018 was hosted across the entire region, and was a disparate interdisciplinary show. Naturally then, this book is made up of poetry, script, fact and fiction in different styles, at differing paces.

Critically though, is the split of the publication, with one part set out in a separate book entirely, Thoughts on the air become words in print, by Mark Simmonds. The second book, hand bound and self-produced is a transcript of three hours of bird-watching on Rimrose Valley Country Park. The park is currently awaiting the building of a major bypass directly through it, and was turned into an outdoor gallery by a group of artists working with the Rimrose Valley Friends for Independents Biennial. The exhibition was a protest, highlighting the importance of the space to local wildlife.

The other book has extracts of the transcript, but not all, with the other writers inspired by work that had come out of Liverpool Biennial as well as the Independents, and essays reflecting on the condition of the festivals in both a local and global context.

Bernadette McBride’s poetry presents soundscapes with confident interpretations and imaginings of the words behind the background noise. Her response to Not Just Collective’s residency at the Fulwood Community Gardens expands on existing ideas rather than creating entirely new thoughts. The fierce confidence of McBride in her interpretation serves to summarise the nature of the book as a whole; a response.

In using art as a starting point, the book reflects that process we all engage with when seeing new exhibitions for the first time. We stop, we interpret, and we judge. Interpretation, or development, is the most prominent path in Post-it, but judgement is certainly evident.

Jess Fenna and Joanie Magill both take a look at the biennial condition, and the position of the Independents within that. Rather than a line of fruitless attack, they pose constructive questions, and criticism of both festivals.

But it is Marjorie Morgan, whose Thin Red Line, a script written in response to The List – Liverpool Biennial’s most memorable work from 2018, for all the wrong reasons – that draws out the emotion of the festivals. She clarifies the role that introspective investigation can have on understanding the value of art, by shaking off the shackles of the Independents Biennial, and delving into a story pushed by Liverpool Biennial. Her script ignores the recent artwork, and the tales of destruction, and focusses on the story of three of the List’s occupants.

True to form, Marjorie Morgan’s nerve-wracking writing, alongside the fact and fiction of the other writers turns Post-it into a truly purposeful anthology.