As Independents Biennial closes, it publishes a new book marking Covid year

The 23 artists who featured in 2021’s rescheduled Independents Biennial have had their work captured in a new book published by the festival organisers as it closes this month. 

Independents Biennial 2021, An Evaluation [of Sorts], tells the story of the festival, moved from 2020 because of the Covid pandemic, which then took place mainly online. The structure departs from usual evaluations, allowing artists to reflect without censorship on  the work of their peers, the disruption of lockdowns, and the heightened strains on work and life posed by motherhood during a pandemic.

The book is published by Art in Liverpool and written by the Artist Hosts, Matt Retallick, Jo Mary Watson, Harriet Burns and Elizabeth Challinor, the title acts as a chance to reflect on the festival, its impact on its artists and how its changing circumstances impacted on its participants.

The projects produced during the festival included a social pharmacy, a photography and writing project in Thatto Heath, crypto embroidery, region-wide citizen science actions and an exploration of post-colonial language.

A printed gallery appeared in supermarkets across Liverpool city region, while artworks were shared as posters and displayed across Liverpool city centre. Most of the work for the festival developed online, with performances, development and events taking place through social media, Zoom and other platforms.

The festival, which runs alongside Liverpool Biennial, exists to celebrate the region’s own creative life and cast a fresh perspective on how people in Merseyside see, make and use art.

Patrick Kirk-Smith is Festival Director:

“We knew this festival would be different, and we were never quite sure what that would mean. Having a printed book allows us to capture this astonishing moment and keep it for posterity. We don’t know where we will be in two years’ time, but I hope we’ve learned from this year. Most importantly, the work behind exhibitions (tears and all) is possibly more useful than the exhibition itself.

Capturing the experience of artists and writers felt important and significant. We have always been very conscious of making sure our artists had a festival experience, had something that came of this strange year that allowed them to feel they have made their mark, however unprecedented the year. And this isn’t over. Just because the 2021 programme has ended we’ll carry on working to support this group of artists indefinitely.”

In partnership with Metal Liverpool, Independents Biennial worked with Pierce Starre, Sufea Mohamad Noor, Jay Hampton and Sorrell Kerrison. 

In partnership with Open Eye Gallery, Sam Venables, Feiyi Wen and Monster Mosquera were selected for a digital window display.

Already commissioned artists in St Helens, thanks to an ongoing partnership with the council’s Arts in Libraries service, included Emmer Winder, Fiona Stirling, Grace Collins, George Gibson, Kevin Crooks, Callan Waldron-Hall, Stephanie Fry and Sarah Gilman.

We also supported new work produced by artists and collectives from around the North West, including, ROOT-ed, Mark Simmonds, Rule of Threes, Mark Hobbs, Avoid HaHa Collective and Alan Dunn’s FOUR WORDS: WIRRAL, and the ongoing work of this book’s authors; Matt Retallick, Harriet Burns, Jo Mary Watson and Elizabeth Challinor.

As part of the 2021 edition, and building on work taking place through 2020, Independents Biennial continued to work with the newly established Artist Studio Network, connecting the independent studios based within the city region, helping to keep artists and institutions connected as their work develops, and continues to work with Artists’ Union England to support their understanding of regional employment needs for artists.

Independents Biennial programme remains available at independentsbiennial.com/home-2021

The book is available to read in full at independentsbiennial.com