Liverpool Biennial 2012: Introduction

Art  Where to begin?  The theme.  This year’s theme is hospitality, but unlike previous Liverpool Biennials it has been decided to branch out into three words for the title which is The Unexpected Guest with the various invited artists and venues producing work inspired by that theme like an episode of This American Life fuelled by contemporary art.  Some might considered how newcomers are treated, the extent to which we’re prepared to extend our hospitality and how hospitality is accorded from culture to culture.  Some might simply utilise it as a way of expressing their own ideas however tenuously.

In previous years, I’ve attended press and private views, rushed between all the venues in the first couple of hours or days, a blur of art, and although there’s a certain evolutionary element to this approach, that the memory retains the best art and discards the rest, it also means that sometimes, just sometimes, the more subtle work becomes forgotten anyway.  It’s worth noting too that I almost volunteered this time too, attending the recruitment meetings and half a briefing before deciding that I’d miss too much if I was working in a single venue.  I’m sure I made the right decision in the end, not to volunteer.  I’m sure I did.

Either way my strategy this year will be to visit just one or two venues each visit day and take my time.  This has worked well in the past and some of my favourite visits in 2010 were to single pieces or venues and spending hours wandering, watching, listening.  As I discovered this morning that also means that a whole experience of a piece isn’t necessarily marred by other patrons blistering through taking a dozen photographs with a camera but not actually spending much time looking at the work before moving on, the beep and click of their flash still evident in the distance.  Almost.  If the Biennial teaches us anything, it’s tolerance.

The other choice is to vist them in the order of the address list in the official Biennial pamphlet beginning with The Cunard Building (1) and concluding at Liverpool John Moore’s University Art & Design Academy (27).  My guess is that with the doubling up of a few of the smaller venues this won’t actually take twenty-seven days but it does mean that I’ll not be seeing some of the “main” venues for a few weeks.  This does not mean I’m ignoring the Independents but I’m going to be choosier.  Though it’s worth noting how many of the indies from two years ago now have official status though it’s good that they retain their separation of powers.

There will be blogging, not quite as intensively as in 2010, but I’m going to try and write something about each of the official venues but with the rule that I can only mention a single piece, my favourite piece, unless it’s the only piece in which case I’ll busk.  Placing all the artists who happen to be in a particular venue on a psychological competition footing is probably unfair but it does mean I’ll have an extra element of interaction, which should focus the mind or my mind or what’s left of it.  Full details of all the work is available on the website, where the venues are in alphabetical order, which at this point is disconcerting.

All of which will probably go out of the window if life happens or it becomes apparently that I might as well do five venues in a day, that it’s easier just to visit the all the spaces in a cluster on the map or I have a burning desire to promote more than one work at one of those venues or spaces.  I’m not entirely sure what this introduction’s been about, or why I've decided on these rules to be honest.  I suppose that when we’re invited into someone’s home, most of us have a natural curiosity, are a bit judgemental but nevertheless follow society’s rules about not stealing the television, utilising the lavatory and thanking the host profusely.  Seems right to attend this year’s Biennial in with same spirit.

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