‘The Biennial is a Mess’

Digby Maass traveled down from Scotland for a 2 day tour of the Biennial and was not impressed…

“The biennale is a mess.
The official ‘find it’ guide is a jumble and the independents guide will hardly guide you to anything. If you have a short time to visit, in my case 2 days, you need as clear as possible a guide to base your viewing on. The designers of these guides obviously have never had to use such things to visit a new city before, or if they have then they haven’t learnt from their own experience.

Numbered maps are fine but for heavens sake then list the numbers in numerical order because that’s how we are going to refer to them to know what is where. The independents guide lists them in alphabetical order with the numbers all over the place. It then perversely, and not always accurately, lists them again – sometimes on the other side of the sheet, sometimes upside down in relation to the map and in a way that does not clearly help you decide what is what.

The official guide is a little more coherent but the numbers on the map should be the primary indexing facility, unbroken by categories that are irrelevant when you are tramping the streets looking for galleries, art in the public realm or whatever.

One wants to know: location, times and what type of activity/exhibition is taking place at the venue. Performances may be hard to catch if you are only around for two days, so you want to be able to easily identify, for example, visual art shows that will be on most of the time.

Its not as if there is even that much on to make the job difficult. It seems much reduced compared with previous biennales. If it weren’t for the John Moore’s and the A Foundation showing the excellent New Contemporaries and the lovely “The Furnace” there wouldn’t be a lot to see of quality. What’s happened to the plethora of work of previous years? The artists in the public realm underwhelm and £4 is a lot to pay for a very unconvincing show at the Tate.


With the theme being the regeneration of Liverpool you have to ask whether there is going to be enough provision for sparky and vital contemporary art when the building work is complete? The Greenland Street project is an excellent space but is it enough when so many of the warehouses and similar spaces that housed exhibitions are being lost to development.”