LIVERPOOL, UK— The Liverpool Biennial, the largest festival for contemporary art in the United Kingdom is currently underway (Liverpool, July 9 – October 16). With more than 40 artists participating, the festival’s ninth edition takes place across four themed episodes, which each connect back to the history of the area.
The episodes are Ancient Greece (which confused us at first, since the biennial is meant to connect to Liverpool. Fad Magazine, however, pointed out that Greece is the inspiration behind many of the notable buildings in Liverpool); Chinatown, which harkens back to Liverpool’s Chinese community, the largest one in Europe; Software, which includes digital art and new media; and Moments from the Future, which invites artists to peer into the short-and-long term ways Liverpool could change. Politics and history are also present, with one work referencing the UK student strike against Thatcher in 1985.
Our ceramic interest in the series in Betty Woodman in particular. It’s wrong that this 86-year-old powerhouse wasn’t included in the young artist showcase with the children’s episode, but her Liverpool Fountain (2016) for the Ancient Greece episode more than makes up for it. If you’ve been following our Woodman posts for the last few months, you’ll probably notice similarities between the bronze fountain and her clay frescos. The biennial states:
Woodman’s commission for Liverpool Biennial 2016 is a large-scale public artwork, a bronze fountain, which refers to classical imagery and architectural decoration. This can be found next to George’s Dock Ventilation Tower, as part of Liverpool Biennial’s Ancient Greece episode. Her work refers to classical imagery and architectural decoration, combining sources that include Greek and Etruscan sculpture, Minoan and Egyptian art, Italian Baroque architecture and the paintings of Bonnard, Picasso and Matisse. Woodman’s vessels, floor sculptures, montages and wall murals will also be displayed across numerous other locations and episodes.
Lara Favaretto of Turin, Italy made Momentary Monument (2016), a conceptual piece that speaks to the impermanence of all monuments. Visitors to it can slip money in through a slot. At the end of the show, the monument will be destroyed and the proceeds donated to Asylum Link Merseyside, an organization that helps asylum seekers and refugees.
Hato studio, Frances Disley and Ana Jotta worked to create these double-decker art busses, which will be seen driving around throughout the biennial. Hato, for example, is a design studio based in London and Hong Kong. They worked with students at the Childwall Sports and Science Academy, but the finished piece is far more complex than that would lead you to believe.
It contains coded messages from outer space for the future of Liverpool, to be interpreted by its citizens. This ‘space bus’ pays homage to messages taken on board NASA’s Voyager spacecraft in 1977, which contained sound and images depicting life on Earth.
Mariana Castillo Deball was born in Mexico City and now lives in Berlin. We’ve profiled her large pole works previously on cfile.daily. Her piece, To-day 9th of July 2016 is part of the futurism episode. Don’t let the current date fool you, it’s a very wide-reaching piece in terms of time:
It is a large-scale sculpture: an infinite staircase built for a character who can jump across the same date in different years throughout history. The title coincides with the date on which Liverpool Biennial 2016 opens to the public, but it also references other 9th July events across time. An accompanying newspaper, which can be found across all exhibition sites, contains found news stories from many different 9th of Julys. Castillo Deball began this work in 2005, and it will be completed after 365 editions.
This picture of a Marvin Gaye Chetwynd performace is actually from an older work, Jesus and Barabbas puppet show. Armed with that grim sense of humor, Chetwynd is producing a film, Dogsy Ma Bone which will be cast, produced and directed with youth from Liverpool. The film draws its inspiration from (among other things) an old Betty Boop cartoon in which the character sings to animals in a hospital she owns.
Oliver Laric was born in Austria and lives in Berlin today. The Biennial states that his sculptures and installations study “the productive potential of the copy, the bootleg and the remix.” He examines the roles of these things in historic and contemporary societies. For the exhibition, he took 3D scans of sculptures from Liverpool’s Walker Art Gallery. 3D prints of these can be found throughout the biennial and the digital files can be accessed here.
Perhaps the most affecting backstory of the entire show comes in a series of works from Ramin Haerizadeh, Rokni Haerizadeh, both of Tehran, Iran, and Hesam Rahmanian of Knoxville, Tenn. The artists collaborate in Dubai, where they live today.
For Liverpool Biennial 2016, Ramin Haerizadeh, Rokni Haerizadeh and Hesam Rahmanian have sent to Liverpool objects, props, films and works from their art collection. These items have been ‘smuggled’ by sea in a shipping container from Dubai, where the Iranian artists are currently living in exile. They are presented within the Chinatown episode in Cains Brewery, and emerge in other exhibition locations as well.
To wind things back to contemporary ceramic art, let us close with a few more pictures of Woodman’s amazing fountain. We’re envious of those who get to live near it for an entire summer.
Do you love or loathe these works of (not quite) contemporary ceramic art? Let us know in the comments.