Liverpool Biennial 2010: Future Movements, part of City States in the NOVAS Contemporary Urban Centre.

Future Movements, part of City States in the NOVAS Contemporary Urban Centre.

Art  Something which I've often wondered about and some of this Biennial has put into sharp focus, is if, like so many other art forms, exhibitions have an optimal duration.  In other words, if some exhibitions demand a stroll or some a glance and if, when we get this wrong we're doing the work a disservice.  Does some work only fall apart if we dawdle too long over it, think too long about it and in contrast the work which must be experienced over a longer period is misunderstood because we lack the patience or time to dedicate to it?

Other than the obvious, a greater understanding of what it’s like to live in contemporary Jerusalem, the Future Movements section of City States seems also designed to demonstrate the latter, that some art takes time.  I spent just over an hour strolling about this small room, letting each video and audio piece play for its full duration.  As other visitors stepped through briefly, I was uncertain if they were really getting the most from the work, if they could really say they’d seen the exhibition. In seeking the instant cultural hit, they missed everything.

Certainly if they simply glimpsed Boucha Khalidi’s Mapping Journey #3, all they’d see is a video of a map with a pen scrawling across it. But absorb the subtitles and the story of the artist and they’d discover as I did, that he was describing the journey from Ramallah to Jerusalem to see his girlfriend before and after the blockade, in which what was once a fifteen minute car trip has become an epic trail through remote villages and hills so as to avoid checkpoints, a Michael Winterbottom road movie in three minutes.

What would the dozen or so people who opened the curtain at the doorway to the pitch black room in which I sat and listened to Jakob Jakonsen’s The Ramallan Lecture have made of the scene? Me on the floor (no chairs) listening intently as an actress, Marina Vismidt spun out across fifteen minutes these vignettes of life by the Danish artist, visiting friends, navigating the streets, being hassled by a stranger about the infamous cartoons, punctuated now and then by illustrative photographs lit up briefly on the walls.

Over and over, light would flood in from the doorway, I’d lock eyes with a visitor and then the curtain would close. The effect wasn’t unlike a live version of that Silas Fong piece in the basement and each time I hoped someone would join me and we could share the experience. No one did.  If I was a paranoid person, I might assume it was something to do with me and my scary features, but it's most likely that they simply didn't have the time.  Well, the text of the piece is available here (and far more besides).

Which is fine, except, once the visitor has realised the satire at the heart of Anna Brogan's How Long Is A Piece Of String 2001-10 which employs maps of the world to express the implications of the Israeli separation wall, all of the prints seem to be making the same point and its time to move on.  Similarly, the sensory overload of Bassel Abbas and Ruanne Abou Rahme's Contingency 2010 with its mirrored walls, white noise and LED displays barking orders recreating life in Ramallah demands a short sharp shock.

Perhaps it's that the work dictates our approach and we need to be attuned to that or that it's up to the artist or connected information to indicate the optimum length of time they think is required to consume a piece of art.  Two minutes for Larissa Sanour's A Space Exodus (2009) in which she shoots herself, Defying Gravity-style on the first Palestinian moon mission, longer for Jaws Al Malhi's Tower of Babel Revisited 2009 panoramic shot of Jerusalem, the wall winding through.

Whatever.  In the basement later, just before visiting Zone East, I heard an invigilator enthusing about the Future Movement exhibition to a colleague.  "I just didn't know this was happening..." she said meekly, "...I just didn't."  None of us really can.  What I do know, is that in offering an emotional rather than a purely factual response to the situation, I potentially learnt as much in this couple of hours about these cities and their contemporary problems than a dozen news reports.

Until 28th November.

No comments: