Liverpool Biennial 2012:
Hotel Indigo (6)

Art Liverpool’s Hotel Indigo is part of an international franchise chain of “boutique” hotels which stretches across most of the states of America, the various geographical easts and continental Europe. Each of the rooms is apparently individually furnished, the overall hotel taking inspiration from the surroundings (the Edinburgh outlet does seem more rustic than “ours”). It’s also the home of a Marco Pierre White Steakhouse, Bar & Grill. Seems just right that part of a Biennial which has “hospitality” as its core theme should have some activity within a hotel, though it’s worth noting that it’s also the main accommodation partner for the festival.

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Runo Lagomarsino’s public intervention is in the plush men’s loo on the ground floor within the restaurant area. Only afterwards did I consider the implications of that for someone with a XX chromosome and just rang the reception desk of the hotel to check. Apparently they’re happy for another member of staff to accompany a female visitor who’s interested or a friend. Nevertheless as you’ll see, it’s surprising that the artist didn’t simply consider producing a duplicate version of the piece for the women’s toilet since the constituent items aren’t “unique” exactly.

Just above the two wash basins on a wall at right angles to a mirror are two pictures. One is a canvas print of a photograph of a bust relief portrait of a bearded gentleman in Elizabethan clothing which a label beneath indicates is F or Francisco Pizarro González, the Spanish conquistador who conquered the Inca Empire. Next to this is a framed print of what we must also assume is Pizarro in full armour galloping manfully forward rapier aloft. Beneath are the words, “Pan American Union, Washington DC”.

Accompanying these, beneath a stone is an A5 printed booklet containing a reproduction of this text (at this link) in which the artist describes an artwork which never was, the corpse of a toad he named Pedro, which is was unable to conserve long enough to display in an upcoming exhibition. The Pizarro connections are that the unfortunate amphibian was found in Buenos Aires and was to have been shown in Sao Paolo along with some “pink wallpaper based on the rubrica of Francisco Pizarro”. There’s a photo of that wallpaper here.

Except, as I stand looking at these objects and even after reading the text, I’m not sure of what any of it "means". The Biennial booklet simply lists the artists name and that this is a public intervention with a direction to see the entry on the Lagomarsino piece in the Cunard Building, “An Offensive Object in the Least Offensive Way”. That features a statue of a macaw owned by the artist’s neighbour in Sao Paulo which she’s agreed could be shipped to Liverpool to accompany an early 20th century tourist advert for Brazil which contains a picture of a similar Macaw.

There’s plenty about the Macaw on the Biennial’s website. But there’s nothing about the Hotel Indigo piece, not even a title. Sifting around the loo in my memory I don’t recall seeing an information board and if there is it’s not in an obvious position (I don' think). We can attempt to make our own connections about Pizarro and the implications the conquistador’s actions might have for someone who lives in South America and how the bust of the man and the print mirror the macaw and the print in the other piece, whose title could equally apply.

But from a presentational perspective its disappointing that a visitor’s somewhat left in limbo, presented with objects which we might find interesting but without a necessary explanation aren’t able to appreciate the artist's efforts. There doesn’t even seem to be a title. A glance around the web offers the few other clues I’ve linked above but it's especially problematic that there isn’t anything on the Biennial website at least. Unless I’ve missed something. Which as we both know isn’t an unlikely scenario.

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