Review: Liverpool Biennial 2016: Arseny Zhilyaev, Last Planet Parade

Arseny Zhilyaev, Last Planet Parade 2016

Arseny Zhilyaev, Last Planet Parade 2016
Granby Street

Words by Patrick Kirk-Smith

This website has followed the history of Granby intently for years now, with even more enthusiasm lately for obvious reasons. Not least, my own desire to end up in one of the beautifully restored homes – though there seems a fat chance of that happening any time soon. So it comes as no surprise that Granby has become an unlikely hero of Liverpool Biennial 2016.

If you want to see art in the form that inspires artists, visit the house at the bottom of the road. You’ll be invited in by the Biennial’s brightly branded green signage, and if you’re lucky get a friendly hello from their staff. No one lives here, but this was a home once, and it still feels like that takes precedent over its current status as a gallery. That’s no bad thing, not at all. Arseny Zhilyaev has responded to the architecture of the space – in both rooms – as delicately as you would in your own living room.

Not only do his worn copies of sci-fi-historical books scream of middle-class book shelves, but his collection shares the intrigue of an avid home hobbyist, who happens to have found a display case. But the odds of you being genuinely interested in the contents of that case are slim, if you know what’s in the former dining room. A stained glass window so striking it still has me daydreaming about stealing it for my living room.

The window itself it not an expert example of stained glass. It’s crisp and well manufactured, but far from intricate. Its bold shapes are what make it so special though. It stands out from its fairly bleak surroundings, cleverly tying them in to its own mood; a mood that heavily relies on the near-iconic perforated steel sheets that mask the window.

It’s dark and surrounded by a sense of mystery about its own space; a window with no view, and a very limited amount of light, even at midday. As far as its functionality goes, it has none, and that limits it to one purpose, to tell a story, and tell it with a pretty face.

I woke up this morning with a stark sense that the Biennial might not be finding a local relevance in Liverpool this year. That disappeared so quickly when I walked through the front door and into this exhibition. It’s by no means specific to its location, but it has a natural affinity with its immediate surroundings. Whether it’s the hint at a starry sky twinkling through the boarded up window, or the quiet wink towards the sad story of the building it inhabits. Whatever the reasons, there is a beguiling narrative that has me making plans to visit this Last Planet Parade again before the Biennial is out.