Images: Highlights + Fascinations From the Liverpool Biennial
Above image: Ines Doujak, Masterless Voices (film still), 2014
It’s reasonable to say that London has spent the last three decades becoming the absolute center of gravity for the international contemporary art world. But just about 280 kilometers to the North, the Liverpool Biennial has, since 1998, actually grown into the largest gathering of the art world cognoscenti / art lovers in all of the UK.
The 2021 edition has just opened with The Stomach and The Port, a major new series of outdoor sculptures, plus sonic and digital commissions. An inside chapter will launch later in the spring, and there is also a digital portal, for those unable to travel to the UK right now. Themes this year revolve around ideas and notions of “the body,” especially relevant as this now-thirteen-months-long global pandemic has made us so acutely aware of our corporeal presences.
The works of major names like Judy Chicago, Rashid Johnson and Pedro Neves Marques will be featured in the Biennial, which will run through June 21. But here we pick eight particularly compelling highlights, from well-known, and lesser known talents.
The work of Vienna based feminist artist Ines Doujak spans disciplines from performance to film to installation and photography. She notably undertook an extensive research of the global cultural signifiers of textiles, and the implications for culture, gender and matters of class – which resulted in the fascinating book Loomshuttles, Warpaths: An Eccentric Archive 2010-2018.
Featured in the Liverpool Biennial: Masterless Voices (film still), 2014 (pictured top), taken from a podcast of the same name that looked at the sociocultural history of pandemics. So, obviously, exceedingly relevant.
UBERMORGEN is a Swiss-Austrian art collective dating to 1995, whose early works involved low-tech media hacking, and moved on to such provocations as a fake Neo-Nazi helpline. They’ve exhibited across five continents, and have their work held in SFMOMA, Centre Pompidou Paris, and the NTT ICC Museum Tokyo.
Featured in the Liverpool Biennial: The Next Biennial Should be Curated by a Machine B³(TNSCAM) (2021), which suggests that the curatorial profession might be usurped by Artificial Intelligence – especially cheeky considering the large population of curators in attendance.
Black Obsidian Sound System
Black Obsidian Sound System was launched in 2018 as a community of trans and non-binary Black, queer, and people of color to bring together the triple threat of sound, art and radical activism. It is based partly around the communal principles of sound system culture.
Featured in the Liverpool Biennial: A Collective Hum, 2019, is an immersive environment using archival images, film, light, and sculpture to reflect on the ways marginalized groups have used sound spaces as places to cultivate community and strength.
A Finnish artist working in Berlin, Jenna Sutela‘s audiovisual works have been known to feature bacteria, such as the Bacillus subtilis nattō and the slime mold Physarum polycephalum. She is currently a Visiting Artist at The MIT Center for Art, Science & Technology.
Featured in the Liverpool Biennial: nnother (2020), at the Lewis’s Building, a sound piece that imagines a conversation between fictional organisms – one of which happens to live inside of the other – as well as a new installation that is a continuation of her Magma (2019–ongoing) series of human-headed lava lamp sculpts at the Lush Building.
Madrid artist Teresa Solar‘s exhibitions draw on history, fiction and mythology to create complex new ecosystems of thought. In recent years her work has been shown in Stockholm, Munich, Basel and Ciudad de Mexico.
Featured in the Liverpool Biennial: Osteoclast II – installed at Exchange Flags, the city’s imposing Town Hall – is composed of five “kayaks,” which are meant to refer to the shape of a bone in the anatomy, calling to mind that the great ships built and docked at Merseyside were and are transmitters of bodies and knowledge.
A British artist of Pakistani descent whose favored medium is electricity, Haroon Mirza has notably collaborated with writer, curator and Doctors of Madness frontman Richard Strange. Mirza’s work often employs sound and light waves to produce provocative effects.
Featured in the Liverpool Biennial: The Three /\/\/\/’s 2021, a new performance piece which investigates the sociological and physiological properties of the human voice. Said performance will not host an audience, but rather be documented, and then be available to view via the Biennial’s digital portal.
A Ghanian artist living and working in London, Larry Achiampong‘s work encompasses live performance, spoken word, musical composition and photographic/painted collages, often dealing with the existential and sociocultural.
Featured in the Liverpool Biennial: Pan-African Flag for the Relic Traveller’s Alliance, a series of eight Pan-African flags installed in various locations around the city, whose colors have symbolic meaning connected to various struggles on the African continent. Some directly reference Liverpool’s role as a port city involved in the West African slave trade.