The Liverpool Biennial, running until 25th November, a festival that show cases a vast array of Contemporary Art, features work by 242 artists spread across 27 locations across the city centre. The art presented represents a broad spectrum of medium and theme, though many of the works tie together very closely in the later.
Given the broad range of works on show if you only have one day in Liverpool it’s definitely best to pick out before hand what you want to see because packing in so much and taking the time to actually ingest so much work is definitely an ask if you where to attempt it all in one day.
Since we where only in Liverpool for a few hours we tried our best to pack in as much as we could, specifically revolving around the photographic work on offer which ranged from some very familiar names like Martin Parr and Gilbert & George to less well known work.
(The Park – Kohei Yoshiyuki)
For me the photographic highlight of the entire festival was the work of Kohei Yoshiyuki – ‘The Park’ from 1971 – 79 which can be found in the Open Eye Gallery. I’ve come across this particular set of photographs before but what really stood out for me was the way in which they where presented. Upon entering the gallery we where presented with a torch each and ushered into a pitch black room (something that seemed to be a bit of a running theme throughout the festival). Once inside the viewer must illuminate each photo in turn in order to see them. Given the nature of the work in which Kohei documents the busy and decidedly sordid nightlife in Tokyo parks the act of lighting each photograph up with the torch draws you into the situation, it makes you a part of and in some ways complicit in the act the you’re witnessing.
It’s this kind of presentation, that draws you into the image that really stands out for me versus the bog standard set of photos framed up on a white wall that’s so typical.
Simryn Gill, who’s work can be found in the Tate Liverpool also stood out for me. The initially overwhelming wall of 258 photographs (shown above), which at first glance are uniform in what they depict show the living spaces of homes found all across the Malaysian Peninsula. When you look deeper the photographs explore the subtle (and not so subtle) differences in the spaces that people occupy, often driven by affluence or the lack there of. While some of the spaces seem decidedly unfamiliar thanks to the seemingly impoverished or incredibly luxurious nature of them (something that’s a little alien to a working class Briton) each contain things that call back to our own lives, be that furniture or the basic function of the room as a space to occupy and be as comfortable as one can afford making them instantly identifiable.
While Gill and Kohei’s work where highlights for me, I admit to still being somewhat torn on Martin Parr’s contribution to the festival. While the photographs presented are definitely classic Parr I have to wonder exactly what he was trying to get across. A sense of exported Britishness perhaps? Given the amount of Union Jacks (something that is pretty ubiquitous to Parr’s work) and Royal memorabilia versus dollar and cent price tags that’s certainly the impression I took away. If that’s what he was intending I’m not sure but given the typically Parr use of such themes, saturated colours and seeming ‘snap shot’ style it feels in a lot of ways like Parr is simply repeating himself and has become his own trope, that he’s produced another collection to which we can all say “Yup, that’s totally Parr.” and that leaves me more than a little disappointed if I’m honest.
Over all the festival is definitely worth checking out but the work is a real mixed bag with far more than just photography on show and planning what you want to see is a must. Thanks to both the app which can be downloaded from the website and the booklets provided, complete with map that’s easily done though.
The festival is on until the 25th November and more details can be found on the website: http://www.biennial.com/