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Review: The Oratory: Liverpool Biennial 2016

The Oratory: Liverpool Biennial 2016
The Oratory

Words by Patrick Kirk-Smith

The Oratory, is probably best known as the little building outside the Anglican Cathedral, and second best for Tracey Emin’s Roman Standard (better known as the little bird on stick). But now it’s been opened up for three months between July 9th and October 16th as part of Liverpool Biennial 2016, and to my mind is one of the most enjoyable parts of the festival this year.

For the most part, the work inside is intended as part of the Ancient Greece Episode of the Biennial but it has hints of Episodes From the Future, sporadically interactive work, and the highest concentration of euro-trash of any Biennial exhibition. The trash, made up of rubbish from around Europe has been turning heads, and according to one member of Tate’s staff has been added to by excitable Biennial visitors.

The late addition to the Biennial provides comment on our sad departure from Europe (the largest creative influence on Liverpool, historically and presently) with wrappers and recyclable waste from all over the continent strewn about galleries all over Liverpool. And The Oratory isn’t short of its share, with a far more noticeable quantity of the litter than any other gallery I‘ve visited.

The work inside the building ties so many other elements of the Biennial together, and answers a few questions that weren’t answered in other galleries. Bringing work together from different spaces, so that artists’ work is no longer part of the feature exhibitions in Cains or ABC, but part of a dedicated Ancient Greece exhbition.

Saying that, the Ancient Greece-iness is flipped upside down with the interactive work that brings technology into play (work I’ll not say too much about because we value our readers, and no one likes a spoiler). What is important about the combination of sculpture, film and interactive performance is that it produces a high energy space that you can’t really get bored in.

Oh, And if you actually manage to get bored just stop and remember you’re stood in a Grade 1 listed Heritage site, surrounded by some of the most important memorial sculptures in local history.