"Ogri, come. I command you."Art Back when I was signing on for Income Support or whatever each contemporary government was calling unemployment benefit, my route walking to the job centre on Park Road was down High Park Street, which meant I passed the so-called Welsh Streets fortnightly on a Monday. Then these were thriving suburban terraced streets not that I paid much attention what with wanting to get to the signing on desk at the given time and always running late for.
-- Vivien, "The Stones of Blood"
Returning other day, I was shocked to see, despite hearing, that they're marked for demolition, every house empty and boarded up, one street painting completely black, every house top to bottom. The result is eerie, as though some fantastic or even apocalyptic event has befallen the local population forcing them to leave their homes. There is a pilot scheme to refurbish some terraces but the overall feelings is of intruding into a space which humanity has vacated.
Which makes it the perfect setting for Lara Favaretto's Momentary Monument - The Stone, a giant, monolithic hollow granite boulder which has landed in the centre of Rhiwlas Street, perhaps the most apt of the Monuments of the Future. Boulder implies an ovular object, but this is a large rectangular shape, one side smooth, the other three carved with a brick shaped pattern and the overall effect is as totemic as the black objects of Arthur C Clarke and Stanley Kubrick and just as forbidding.
To turn into Rhiwlas Street and be confronted with the monument is a disorientating experience, in that way that the best Biennial public art has been over the years, placing the inexplicable in explicable places. Even though you're aware this is an artwork created with human thoughts and hands, it's nevertheless entirely alien, just the sort of probe we might imagine the Lemurians from Yin-Ju Chen's Extrastellar Evaluations (at Caine's Brewery or FACT) might send. Or an Ogri.
Favaretto has created similar pieces elsewhere. This article has a similar piece created for the Galleria d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea di Bergamo back in 2009. Like that commission, The Stone in Toxteth is temporary. The slot on the front allows visitors to make a donation to charity (on this occasion Asylum Link Merseyside), money which will be collected by demolishing the boulder at the end of the Biennial (which is apt given the possible fate of the surrounding streets). I liked the way my change jangled as it hit the interior floor.
Because of its transient nature you have to see this piece now. One of my great regrets was not being able to see Rachel Whiteread's House when it existed. But be warned, it's very photogenic, which is presumably why it's been utilised to illustrate this Biennial in many publications and as the main graphic on their Twitter profile. So if you haven't seen it yet, I'd strongly recommend you avoid spoiling the moment of initial contact, turning the corner into the street to see it in the stone for the first time. It's breathtaking.