The tenth edition of Liverpool Biennial, Beautiful world, where are you?, invites artists and audiences to reflect on a world in social, political and economic turmoil. Celebrating their 20th anniversary of presenting international art in the city, this year’s Biennial will take over public spaces, galleries, museums, and online through commissioning artists to showcase their work across a fifteen-week period.
Here are our top picks for 2018:
Francis Alÿs, a Belgian-born artist now living and working in Mexico, diverted from his training as an architect after issues of urbanisation and social unrest in Mexico inspired his decision to become a visual artist. Presenting a selection of postcard-size paintings at the Victoria Gallery and Museum, Alÿs will explore and confront ideas around global tourism in contemporary art.
Performance artist Reetu Sattar from Dhaka, Bangladesh, works with video, text, objects, and photography, creating time-based pieces exploring presence and absence, memory, loss resilience and the ephemerality of existence. His work will be shown at the Liverpool Playhouse and will draw together many performers, each of whom will play a single note of the seven notes of the harmonium, exploring the violence and social upheaval that has recently affected Bangladesh. The performers convey the powerful statement that their traditions are here to stay, as the harmonium is in danger of disappearing in Bangladesh due to much stricter interpretations of Islam.
At the Bluecoat Suki Seokyeong Kang is creating a new multi-part installation that deploys various media to seek a synesthetic expansion of painting. Kang creates an environment that guides the direction of her paining through movement and rhythm, which she then uses as a visual musical score. With her practice situated between the abstract and figurative, the organic and geometric, she uses visual language to convey both balance and harmony.
Also at the Bluecoat, Melanie Smith will present her new film Maria Elena. The title of the film is taken from a hexagon-shaped town of the same name situated in the Atacama Desert, South America; one of the world’s driest deserts. Trained as a painter, Smith explores the extended field of painting within the history of art and its relation to the moving image.
Naeem Mohaiemen’s film Two Meetings and a Funeral is showing at St George’s Hall. Mohaiemen is a filmmaker from London, who use essays, film, and mixed-media installations to examine the collective memory of failed utopias, framed by Third World Internationalism and World Socialism. Her three-channel film will explore Cold War-era power struggles between the political coalitions of the Non-Aligned Movement and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.
Another Liverpool Biennial commission based at St George’s Hall is Inci Eviner’s film Reenactment of Heaven. The sequence reflects on ideas of heaven, questioning how religion and economy interact, counter and determine each other in different contexts. Eviner focuses in on the placement of woman in heaven, aiming to give women agency over that of societies dominated by the male gaze. The film carries these messages through blurring the boundaries between reality and fiction, using masks, stage design and symbolic props.
Tate Liverpool will be showcasing the work of Haegue Yang. In the Wolfson Gallery, Yang will create a new environment for her sculpture series, The Intermediates (2015-ongoing). Constructed from artificial woven straw, this exhibition alludes to both traditional arts and crafts techniques, and modern production methods. Representing figures and sites from folk tales and ancient traditions in a variety of configurations, Yang’s work questions the definition of ‘paganism’.
Banu Cennetoğlu lives and works in Istanbul, exploring the political, social and cultural dimensions of production, representation and distribution of knowledge. How does this feed into a society’s collective thinking and become part of its ideology? In 2006 she initiated BAS, a project space in Istanbul focusing on the collection and production of artists’ books and printed matter. Compiled and updated each year, The List races information relating to the deaths of more than 33,000 refugees and migrants who have lost their lives within, or on the borders of Europe since 1993. Among other places, she has put it on bus stops in Basel, billboards in Amsterdam, a wall in Los Angeles, advertising columns in Berlin, and a public screen on top of Istanbul’s Marmara Pera hotel.
Image 1: Suki Seokyeong Kang, Land Sand Strand, 2016–2018
Image 2: Haegue Yang, Long Neck Woman Upside Down, 2016