Liverpool Biennial 2012:
Liverpool One (11)

Art  My memory being what it is, I’m slowly forgetting the geography of the area that’s now Liverpool One.  I remember the massive Argos and the old Radio Merseyside building, the Quaker Meeting Place and the massive hotel, but John Lewis seems to have been dropped on their footprints so successfully I couldn’t specifically say exactly where they would be standing.  During the 800th birthday celebrations in 2007, I attended a series of talks in the Lady Chapel at Liverpool Cathedral.  The one public comment I remember vividly was from someone who was clearly very distressed by the rate of change.  “They’re ripping the heart out of the city” they said.  I wasn’t sure if that was true.  Now all I want is for the old Zavvi store to be turned into a Waitrose.

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If I have a general attitude to the kinds of places which require lists, it's to avoid them.  Unlike Groucho, I don't care to belong to any club that wouldn’t have me as a member.  I don’t have any pangs of jealously when I pass queues and cordons and confident looking people holding clipboards.  Which isn’t to say I haven’t attended events with lists, it’s just that they tend to be during the day or early evening, feature guest speakers and close when these other places are about to opened.  Such attitudes are probably why I’m also a lonely person, but if the only way to gain acceptance to some section of society is to reconfigure yourself so that you can be accepted by that section of society, I’ll retain my individuality, thank you.

Which is probably why, when I stood in front of Elmgreen & Dragset’s But I’m on the Guest List Too!, I somehow knew that when I tried to open its big silver door with VIP emblazoned on it, it wouldn’t open.  Well ok, I did see that it was concreted down too which was also an indication, but the implication was already clear.  Thou shalt not pass.  The text in the Biennial booklet says that the piece is “examining the hierarchy of values and meritocracy established by celebrity culture, the artist’s oversized VIP door, slightly ajar, invites the viewer in but cannot be fully opened.”  You could replace the m-word in that sentence with “mediocrity” too I suppose and it would mean much the same thing.

You could argue the reason I avoid such places is the fear of rejection of finding out I’m not on the list, that by going out of my way to not even be in the hairs breath of the list, I’m protecting myself.  That is a thing with me, something I tend to often with other, well, things.  But as this big silver door demonstrates, it’s also because I know that there’s always another level of exclusivity.  Everyone is faced by this door no matter how many others they’ve been ushered through.  The fact that we can walk around it, that if we could open it and walk through we’d find nothing we didn’t have already, the same pavement, same view of the Albert Dock, might indicate that it’s always a false promise, a transparent dangling carrot.

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