Liverpool Biennial 2018 programme announced
Words, Patrick Kirk-Smith
Sally Tallant and Kitty Scott set out to ask one question, and working as a curatorial duo, created a new challenge in a world where self-identification is more important than ever. Asking for answers rather than giving them, Liverpool Biennial 2018 promises a new way of presenting art.
The question running through the four month festival is one posed by Friedrich von Schiller, “Beautiful World, Where Are You?” in a poem focussed on hope and facing forwards in a world that has drastically changed. What that gives the artists, most of which are entirely new to Liverpool, is an affront to understand what Liverpool means in a world it often struggles to understand.
A lot of what is promised feels almost apologetic, embracing stories often overlooked. Banu Cennetoglu’s work shines a light on the deaths of more than 33,000 around the borders of Europe since 1993. I anticipated a festival that appeared obviously anti-Brexit and addressed local political views, but what has been handed over is a festival that looks at the world’s problems, and answers them with a voice unique to Liverpool.
There are moments of bliss too though, engaging communities around Liverpool in ways that explore new avenues of artistic impact, and working with schools to rethink urban spaces. Ryan Gander, one of Merseyside’s most celebrated artists in this Millennium has been working with Knotty Ash Primary school to develop a new set of hopefully permanent benches based on the iconic architecture of the Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral.
But for me, it’s the work of Mohamed Bourouissa, with Granby Four Streets CLT and Kingsley Community Primary School, developing a new garden that will be used for years to come as a resilience space. Granby is still an area building its community identity, all very much in the public eye, so spaces of escape and reflection are critical to its success and longevity. Rather than taking art to a quiet location and taking it away again, this work will stay in place, and become part of that local identity. It’s as close to addressing as the title question as we are likely to find, and hopefully a sign of things to come.
Similarly, unlike recent Biennials this festival isn’t drawing on empty or disused space like ABC Cinema, or Cains. It’s celebrating the best of the occupied space, whether that’s in the public or private sphere. The decision to rethink how the Biennial is hosted is a bold one, but it gives what is promised; a question about the future of the city.
How can the Victoria Gallery & Museum build its reputation? How does Liverpool Central Library engage international conversation about the significance of its collections? How do public spaces generate new conversations about themselves? All of those questions are critical to finding an answer to Schiller’s own provocation.
Just where are we, and how do we rebuild the beautiful world that might be getting lost? There are over 40 artists, from 22 countries trying to answer that question from 14th July. And with injections of humour mixed with the melancholy rhetoric of Brexit, the ongoing downhill struggle of the Northern Powerhouse and worries about how both could come together to create havoc, there is nobody who won’t find something to relate to with this festival.
What we’re getting is a festival that is likely to teach us new ways of asking questions we didn’t quite know how to ask. It’s a really open way of creating a conversation around contemporary art, and an honest presentation of one of the world’s most significant international festivals. I don’t expect answers, because I don’t believe the question they’re asking needs any, but I do expect to end 2018 with a clearer idea of what I want to see in my world.
More details on venues and artists follow the gallery below
For Liverpool Biennial 2018, Beautiful World, Where Are You?, the following venues will host these artists:
Kevin Beasley; Shannon Ebner; Ryan Gander with Jamie Clark, Phoebe Edwards, Tianna Mehta, Maisie Williams and Joshua Yates; Suki Seokyeong Kang; Silke Otto-Knapp; Melanie Smith
Mohamed Bourouissa; Agnès Varda
Open Eye Gallery
Madiha Aijaz; George Osodi
Liverpool John Moores University’s Exhibition Research Lab
Paul Elliman; The Serving Library
Kevin Beasley; Dale Harding; Brian Jungen; Duane Linklater; Annie Pootoogook; Joyce Wieland; Haegue Yang
Victoria Gallery & Museum
Francis Alÿs; Mohamed Bourouissa; Aslan Gaisumov; Joseph Grigely; Silke Otto-Knapp; Joyce Wieland
The Liverpool Playhouse
Aslan Gaisumov; Ari Benjamin Meyers; Reetu Sattar; Iacopo Seri; Joyce Wieland; Chou Yu-Cheng
St George’s Hall
Inci Eviner; Aslan Gaisumov; Lamia Joreige; Taus Makhacheva; Naeem Mohaiemen
Taus Makhacheva; Rehana Zaman
Abbas Akhavan; Ei Arakawa; Mohamed Bourouissa (Kingsley Community Primary School); Banu Cennetoğlu; Ryan Gander with Jamie Clark, Phoebe Edwards, Tianna Mehta, Maisie Williams and Joshua Yates (Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral); Holly Hendry (Exchange Flags); Janice Kerbel; Paulina Olowska