Art Last Biennial when I visited Liverpool Cathedral, it was prepared for some kind of social evening with tables and chairs filling the main section of the floor space, and in a strange coincidence they were out again on Friday with additional candelabras. They somehow have the ability to make a massive space seem intimate.
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Regrets, sigh, oh the regrets.
When I decided not to volunteer, not to attend the private views, to approach the Biennial slowly, some might say lazily over a few months, I’d entirely forgotten that one of its greatest achievements would be on a single night at Liverpool Cathedral and an experience in which you really, really had to be there.
On the opening night, composer Rhys Chatham gathered a hundred guitarists in the cathedral for a performance of his work A Crimson Grail, a three movement volume, experienced by about four hundred public humans and VIPs. Seven Streets has an excellent eyewitness account with tantalising photographs that somehow manages to tread the line between art and music review (assuming they’re mutually exclusive).
I forgot. I did. It wasn’t until I idiotically glanced at Twitter that night and saw someone had uploaded a photo of themselves in the cathedral expectantly waiting for the event to start (smiling!) that I remembered, or at least the fact I was missing it was unconsciously pointed out to me. Too late. So when I trudged up to the Cathedral on Friday, I sort of already knew I was on a fool’s errand.
Firstly I have a question. I wonder how many city visitors will have made the same trek? The Cathedral is marked as a venue in the Biennial booklet just like all of the others on the map. Chatham’s name is listed with the rest of the artists in the back of the booklet. Someone simply visiting venues might not necessarily think to look in the “Weekends” section halfway through and know to look for this missed event.
Secondly, a suggestion (though it’s probably too late now). If the event was recorded, either on video or audio, why not set up a media device in the cathedral showing the performance? That way visitors can see what they missed, perhaps in the unobtrusive space that housed the Danica Dakic piece in 2010 or somewhere else which might not necessarily require a volunteer invigilating.
It need not be anything spectacular, indeed a photograph and some headphones can be just as effective in giving an idea of the experiences as anyone who's stood on the bridge overlooking the naïve of the Cathedral and listened to the cathedral choir through the headphones can attest.
The human imagination has an amazing capacity to fill in sensory gaps.