​The Process Behind… Working with Biennial Artists

Posted on 16 December 2015

We’re very excited to have 37 international artists now confirmed for Liverpool Biennial 2016. But how did we arrive at next year’s line-up? We talked to our Head of Programmes Rosie Cooper to gain an insight into the thinking that has shaped the artist selection process, and the wider festival, so far.

In the beginning…

We put collaboration at the heart of Liverpool Biennial 2016. Our Curatorial Faculty combines the knowledge and expertise of curators working at Liverpool Biennial, with guest curators who bring a fresh perspective and expertise to the city. Artists are also being asked to participate in this process: visiting and exploring the city, co-authoring of the narratives that form the different Biennial 2016 'episodes': Childhood, Monuments from the Future, or Ancient Greece for example.

Liverpool Biennial 2016 artists visiting Liverpool in September 2015. Photo by Rob Battersby. 

“We were keen to work with artists whose practice resonated with, but would also challenge some of the ideas and stories we had already come up with,” Head of Programmes Rosie Cooper explains, “as well as those who feel comfortable with ideas of collective authorship.” These ideas are reflected, for example, in the inclusion of artists such as Ramin Haerizadeh, Rokni Haerizadeh and Hesam Rahmanian whose shared practice represents a radical redefinition of the collective, or Marvin Gaye Chetwynd, whose performances and videos often employ whole troupes of performers – friends and relatives of the artist.

Ramin Haerizadeh, Rokni Haerizadeh, Hesam Rahmanian, Slice a Slanted Arc into Dry Paper Sky, 2015. Installation view, Kunsthalle Zurich. Photo by Maaziar Sadr, image courtesy of the artists. 

Bringing international art to Liverpool

“We always work with the leading international artists, who we know can bring something new and interesting to the city” Rosie continues, “and for whom the Biennial presents an exciting opportunity, at whatever moment they are in their career.” The process of identifying each artist occurs through conversations, studio visits, attending exhibitions, art fairs and other biennials, as well as recommendations from peers and colleagues. International research trips play a key role, as different regions offer pockets of artistic innovation and excitement at different times. 

Artist Kao Jun-honn taking Rosie on a visit to a place that inspires his practice. Image courtesy of the Ministry of Culture, Taipei. 

Earlier this year Rosie travelled to China and Taiwan, where she met two of the artists participating in Biennial 2016: Yin-Ju Chen and Lu Pingyuan. “It was totally fascinating to understand the art scene in Shanghai, Taipei and Hong Kong better – I met some extraordinary artists, writers and institutions – and we’re very pleased to be including two such artists in the Biennial this year.”

Liverpool Biennial 2016 artist Yin-Ju Chen in conversation with Rosie about the Lemurians. Image courtesy of the Ministry of Culture, Taipei.     

Working with partners

Liverpool Biennial has always worked in partnership with the city’s cultural institutions including Tate LiverpoolBluecoatFACT and Open Eye Gallery, to commission and present new works. It’s not just those in the city; this year, we are very excited to be working with Manchester’s Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art (CFCCA) to bring Yin-Ju Chen and Lu Pingyuan to Liverpool Biennial 2016.

The city as collaborator

One of the most fundamental collaborators in Liverpool Biennial is the city itself. The biennial is first and foremost a moment when the whole of Liverpool comes alive and together, when the region’s galleries and cultural venues present their very best offer and visitors come from around the country and the world to experience the city’s thriving art scene. As the UK biennial of contemporary art, it brings international attention, and we work in partnership with the city to rise to the occasion.

What next?

Now artists are formulating their proposals, and continuing to work with the curatorial team to shape the Biennial further. They are being invited to participate in as many of the episodes as they choose and we hope you’re excited as we are about how things unfold.

Gain more behind-the-scenes insight by following Liverpool Biennial on TwitterFacebook and Instagram, or via our video channel