How Liverpool’s Metropolotian Cathedral grew new limbs. Ryan Gander’s Liverpool Biennial commission

Ryan Gander, From five minds of great vision, 2018. Installation view at Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral, Liverpool Biennial 2018: Beautiful world, where are you? Photo: Rob Battersby

How Liverpool’s Metropolotian Cathedral grew new limbs.
Ryan Gander’s Liverpool Biennial commission

Time Moves Quickly, the message from Ryan Gander to Liverpool. On the platform outside the Metropolitan Cathedral, his work produced in collaboration with the pupils of Knotty Ash Primary School, stands a testament to the power of play.

Gander, and his collaborators, Jamie Clark, Phoebe Edwards, Tianna Mehta, Maisie Williams and Joshua Yates from Knotty Ash have built benches that sit solidly, if sparsely on the cathedral’s plateau. Working together using the Montessori method of education, the artist took the role of leader & peer rather than teacher.

My rough understanding of Montessori’s method is that it is one based in play, hands-on learning and a back seat approach from the teacher, who leads but doesn’t lend their voice to the development of ideas. While there is quite a strong Ryan Gander voice to this work, the benches are a fairly honest representation of the five children and their ability to make things that don’t necessarily make sense.

I hope this installation stays put as it adds to the many many calm spaces around Liverpool, giving busy people places to sit and contemplate. More than anything they are a place to stop and observe the cathedral from an angle which is often unseen. In my drive to find a calm place this month this is one of best spaces to recline.

The installation is worth exploring beyond relaxation though, as the Bluecoat hosts an important part of the project. Slightly more Gander, and slightly more kids-of-Knotty-ash at the same time, than the Cathedral platform. The exhibition at Bluecoat gives insight into the project as a whole, the process, the films, the prints that the artist used as that Montessorian trigger point.


One thing which is worth commenting on is that none of this looks like international contemporary art. The installation looks more like a civic commission built not to offend, sat in grey on the grey platform. But this is why it is there; the work responds to its setting and bleeds out of the grey floor like an overspill of the cathedral itself. The greyness makes them usable, practical, things that fit. They feel like permanent objects which will watch as time moves around them.

until 28th October
Words, Patrick Kirk-Smith