Liverpool Biennial 2016 took place from 9 July until 16 October. The Biennial explored fictions, stories and histories, taking viewers on a series of voyages through time and space, drawing on Liverpool’s past, present and future.
These voyages took the form of six ‘episodes’: Ancient Greece, Chinatown, Children’s Episode, Software, Monuments from the Future and Flashback. They were sited in galleries, public spaces, unused buildings, and through live performance and online. Many of the artists made work for more than one episode, some works were repeated across different episodes, and some venues hosted more than one episode.
In the early 1800s, architects such as John Foster and Harvey Lonsdale Elmes built Liverpool’s neoclassical cityscape as a second version of Ancient Greece. This allowed the rising elite of merchants who benefitted from colonial trade and the industrial revolution to fashion themselves, and their civic commitment, as a re-enactment of the legendary cradle of democracy. In the Walker Art Gallery there is a watercolour by Samuel Austin, made in 1826, that continues this fiction. Depicting Carthage in ancient times, Austin uses Liverpool’s neoclassical buildings as a backdrop. This collapsing of space, time and stories mirrors the way in which the Ancient Greeks imagined and depicted their own myths on friezes and vessels. They didn’t tell stories with a beginning, middle and end, but depicted many stories in parallel, showing how multiple things happen at once, on a single plane.
Venues: The Oratory, Tate Liverpool, George’s Dock Ventilation Tower Plaza
Liverpool’s Chinatown has existed since the late 1890s and is the oldest in Europe. Its entrance is marked by a traditional arch imported from Shanghai. In the same way that the city’s merchant class linked itself to Ancient Greece through neoclassical architecture, this arch links Liverpool’s Chinese community to an image of home. Chinese immigration was, as with many migratory fluxes today, motivated by geographical labour demands and like the Greek fiction beneficial to Liverpool’s ruling class, Chinatown was beneficial to sailors and workers from a different continent. But as China itself changes, this architectural arch also shifts meaning. Many now see Chinatown as a nostalgic image of something that has become more dispersed, and that might even exist primarily in online networks, or through economic investment. Throughout Liverpool Biennial 2016, echoes of these different Chinatowns resound in spaces across the city.
Venues: Cains Brewery, Mr Chilli Restaurant, Master Chef Restaurant, Hondo Chinese Supermarket
Children imagine the space between fiction and reality differently from adults, sometimes making no distinction between the two. They experiment with forms of social organisation constructed by adults, inventing new rules, and simultaneously creating new futures. For the Children’s Episode, artists have been invited to consider children as the primary audience: sometimes making work with them, sometimes for them.
Venues: Cains Brewery
Monuments from the Future
For this episode, artists have been asked to assume the role of futurologists. They were invited to imagine what Liverpool might look like in 20, 30 or 40 years, and to design a monument for these scenarios. As a result, a series of public art commissions travel across time, appearing to be from the future but situated in the present.
Venues: Liverpool ONE, Derby Square, Exchange Flags, Toxteth Reservoir, 143 Granby Street, Rosebery Street, Rhiwlas Street, Epic Hotel
A flashback is a way of experiencing history as it punctuates the present unexpectedly. Flashbacks can rupture established narratives and provide new understandings of the past. For instance, a building designed with the image of Ancient Greece in mind can help tell a story about another city thousands of years later, and the emergence of childhood memories in adulthood can help the understanding of new social realities. In this episode, which was prompted by a conversation with Krzysztof Wodiczko, artists interpret flashbacks through film and the exhibiting of artefacts that travel through time from a different reality to interrupt our own.
Venues: ABC Cinema, Cains Brewery, Blade Factory, FACT, Open Eye Gallery
Software is usually considered as something functional, such as programmes, instructions or rules that direct the computer to perform specific operations, but it can also open a portal to other dimensions and imagined worlds. This episode points towards a broader understanding of software beyond technical application to ideas of scores and choreographies, through which one thing affects another without practical outcome. These scripts, running through the Biennial, generate additional and unexpected content and behaviour, create parallel understandings of art and life, and expand and produce new social forms and possible worlds. The episode opens up perspectives and aesthetic experiences for ‘users’, activating multiple portals that offer the ability to leap from one world to another, from everyday reality to the ‘nethersphere’ of computation and abstraction.
Venues: FACT, Bluecoat, LJMU Exhibition Research Lab, Derby Square, Online
Liverpool Biennial 2016: Highlights
Relive the highlights from Liverpool Biennial 2016, the UK’s festival of contemporary art, which took place from 9 July – 16 October.
Liverpool Biennial 2016 explored fictions, stories and histories, taking audiences on a series of voyages through time and space. Drawing on Liverpool’s past, present and future, these journeys were sited in Liverpool’s galleries, public spaces, unused buildings, through live performance and online. Liverpool Biennial worked with 44 international artists to present exhibitions and newly commissioned artworks in more than 20 sites across the city; in addition to the many projects and exhibitions presented concurrently with the Biennial.
Video by Carl Davies, FACT Video Production Services
360° Tour | Ancient Greece at Tate Liverpool
For Liverpool Biennial 2016, Tate Liverpool has transformed its first-floor galleries into Ancient Greece, with classical sculptures sitting alongside newly commissioned artworks. The artists have imagined a world where artists from Ancient Greece and contemporary times have collaborated, merging the past, present and future into a single fiction just as the city’s architects did when they designed Liverpool’s neoclassical buildings in the 1800s. Take a virtual tour of the exhibition with curator Rosie Cooper.
Video by Carl Davies, FACT Video Production Services
Behind-the-Scenes: The Making of Liverpool Biennial 2016
Liverpool Biennial 2016 unfolds through the landscape of the city’s galleries, public spaces, unused buildings and online. But how does an exhibition of this scale all come together? From artists creating works on site, festival staff and volunteers helping to transform venues, to technicians making the impossible happen, get a behind the scenes look at the days running up to the opening of Biennial 2016.
For further insight, read our blog on five things you need to know about making a city-wide art exhibition.
Film by Carl Davies, FACT Video Production Services
Artist Talk: Alisa Baremboym, Marvin Gaye Chetwynd, Audrey Cottin & Arseny Zhilyaev
Liverpool Biennial 2016 artists Alisa Baremboym, Marvin Gaye Chetwynd, Audrey Cottin and Arseny Zhilyaev came to the city in December to discuss their work at Bluecoat. The artists have been invited to co-create a number of episodes, together and with the curatorial faculty, taking a number of scenarios as starting points.
This was the sixth in a series of public conversations that exposes and proposes ways of working towards Liverpool Biennial 2016.
Talk by Liverpool Biennial 2016 Artists
Artists invited to be part of Liverpool Biennial 2016 (9 July – 16 October) made their first visit to Liverpool in September 2015. They spoke about their work and discussed episodes, time travel, and Ancient Greece with Liverpool Biennial’s curatorial faculty.
Artists present: Koenraad Deddobbeleer, Fabien Giraud and Raphaël Siboni, Samson Kambalu, Jumana Manna, Elena Narbutaitė, Ramin Haerizadeh, Rokni Haerizadeh and Hesam Rahmanian, Lucy Beech and Dennis McNulty.
This was the fifth in a series of public conversations that exposes and proposes ways of working towards Liverpool Biennial 2016.
Artists in the City
Artists invited to be part of Liverpool Biennial 2016 encountered the city for the first time this September. See them explore and seek inspiration in Liverpool’s unique architecture, spaces and places – from well-known cultural landmarks to hidden locations – together with the Biennial’s curatorial faculty.
Liverpool Biennial 2016 takes place from 9 July until 16 October 2016.
Liverpool Biennial 2016: Artists
Liverpool Biennial has announced the participation of 37 international artists in the 2016 Biennial festival of contemporary art, running from 9 July until 16 October. Watch this short video to discover more about each of their past work.
Liverpool Biennial 2016 will unfold through the landscape of the city. It is organised as a story narrated in several episodes: fictional worlds sited in galleries, museums, pubs, unused spaces, stations, hotels, parking lots, shops and supermarkets. For the first time children will work together with artists and the Biennial team to develop ambitious exhibitions, projects and publications specifically for young audiences.
Each of the 37 commissioned artists will make new work for the 9th edition of Liverpool Biennial.