Liverpool Biennial 2010: 'Touched'

  In the art world, London is famous for its world-renowned Frieze art fair, great shows and the Turner prize. However, in terms of biennials, Liverpool Biennial claims to be the largest event in the U.K.: It attracted nearly a million visitors in 2008 - when Liverpool also was European Culture Capital.   'Touched' is the title of the International art exhibition at the 6th edition of this biennial. It  refers to art that touches the viewer in some way, or  art that can be touched by the viewer

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. The whole event is scattered around many places of the city.  

I liked the poetic installation 'The Temple of a Thousend Bells' by the Brazilian artist Laura Belém. She suspended 1.000 hand-blown glass bells from the ceiling of the cathedral's oratory and added contemplative sounds. However, the work is not intended to be of religious content: A speaker tells the Brazilian legend of a temple (with bells in it ) on an island that over the years sank into the sea. Later, the sailors try to hear the sound of the bells in the sea. For me, this is a good piece about memories and displacement.



Do-Ho Suh: 'Bridging Home' of 2010; mixed media (c) the artist; photo by Alex Wolkowicz all courtesy Liverpool Biennial 2010


Also about displacement is the large-scale installation 'Bridging Home' by the Korean artist Do-Ho Suh: He squeezed a life-sized traditional Korean house at an angle between two run-down Victorian buildings. Does he refer to Liverpool and its role as largest British port to the world or to his own culture clash?


Sachiko Abe, 2010, performance (c) by the artist; photo by Alex Wolkowicz all courtesy Liverpool Biennial 2010


I also liked Sachiko Abe's performance in front of  A Foundation gallery: She cuts thiny bits out of  sheets of white paper all day long and piles them to a huge pile. She wears a plain white dress. Years ago, when she was still a patient in a mental hospital, this habit of cutting paper helped her calm down and drew off her attention from cutting herself. Monitors amplify the scary sounds of the scissors.


Sachiko Abe, 2010, performance (c) by the artist; photo by Alex Wolkowicz, all courtesy Liverpool Biennial 2010



The cut paper pile stands for her self-destructive potential. It impressed me, that the pile is already a lot taller than her, but she still keeps cutting. Marcel Proust once wrote, 'Anything great in this world has come from neurotics.'



Ryan Trecartin: 'Trill-ogy Comp'; video installation view (c) the artist; photo by Alex Wolkowicz, all courtesy Liverpool Biennial 2010


There were also a number of good videos: American artist Ryan Trecartin did a strange but fascinating video triology. (I just have to admit, I am a little tired of all these gender issues in contemporary art.) I liked Alfredo Jaar's video about the ignorance of Western politicians in sight of the genozide in Rwanda. He confronted interviews with survivors of the slaughtering with found footage of a speech by President Clinton. I think it is good to focus on post-colonial issues in a city that is well aware of its role as leading slave trader port for the British Empire in the 17th century.



Keith Coventry: 'Spectrum Jesus' of 2010 (c) the artist courtesy Walker Art Gallery



U.K.'s biggest award for painting, the John Moores painting prize, is also part of Liverpool Biennial. This year, it went  to Keith Coventry for 'Spectrum Jesus'.  The concept of the painting is based on the famous forgerer Han van Megreen and his spectacular fakes of the Dutch master Johannes Vermeer. Prize juror, Sir Norman Rosenthal says, 'Spectrum Jesus explores both, the moral and the religious aspects of iconography.'


This award is coinciding with the pope's visit to U.K. However Mr. Coventry did not do this painting for religious reasons. He said, 'I made a religious painting, because I thought it is extremely out of fashion to do it.' The painting has been acquired for the permanent collection of the Walker Art Museum.



Lorenzo Fusi, the Italian-based curator of the biennial, says about Liverpool, 'the city feels a long way from the capital, ... a little disconnected.' His goal for the biennial was, 'I want the Biennial to be perceived by future generations as something that has a lasting, tangible benefit. Art is a great way to empower people and if I can facilitate this process, I will have succeeded in my role.'


Certainly, Liverpool is not comparable with the International effort of Venice Biennial, however, it is a good one and really worth to see.


by Chris Neuschler



6th edition of Liverpool Biennial, in various locations in Liverpool, UK

trough 28 November 2010




'The Collectors' curated by Elmgreen and Dragset / Nordic pavilion (c) photo by Premier Art Scene

Read more about the Venice Biennial 2009

(c) George Condo: 'Integrated Forms (Birnam Wood)' 2009 Oil and pastel on linen 80 x 60 inches 203.2 x 152.4 cm

Read more about the Whitney Biennial 2010

Back to magazine overview


Ian, 23-09-10 20:19
I think the bienniall is great for the city!
Tangie, 06-08-11 16:39
Hey, good to find someone who ageers with me. GMTA.
hymgoib, 11-10-12 08:47
Lysander, 09-06-15 22:11
Nice one, Sam! I really enjeoyd your talk, and the analogy you draw is a very effective one for underlining the threats, but your Berlin model is perfect at highlighting the opportunities too! I love that you used Tip to show what Berlin has in terms of cinema exhibition. I lived in West Berlin in 1988/89, and have since been back many times (did some research at Potsdamer Platz last summer) and I think there is, indeed, much we could learn from that ecology. Like you, I think that Liverpool is a perfect city to emulate that kind of approach! Right, am more than ever convinced that we need to talk!! I'd love to lend my support too to what you are doing, if there is some way I can help. Let's talk!!
Rony, 12-06-15 12:01
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