Liverpool Biennial 2016:
Exhibition Research Lab.

"Get some Mellow. Makes you feel all bendy and soft all day long."
-- Pharmacist, "Gridlock"
Art Well, this adventure was quite the challenge. When I attended the exhibition the other Monday,  the video section, an important rosetta stone explaining the context of the rest of the work wasn't working and on asking at reception in the building no one seemed to know how it should be turned back on. I tweeted and phoned Biennial and someone very kindly texted me later to tell me the video was back on but I was home by then.  Returning the subsequent Thursday, the image was playing but no sound.  The receptionist came and after trying to turn the projector on and off again, passed me the remote, I offered to have a look, and after fiddling with it for a bit managed to get the sound booming out of the speakers.

The introductory video is a vital component of Suzanne Treister's HFT The Gardener (transcript here), setting up the fictional conceptual scaffold on which the rest of the show hangs, albeit on buffet tables covered in glass.  Through a hypnotic series of images we're introduced to former stock market trader Hillel Fischer Traumberg, who after a hallucinatory experience on the trading floor decides to turn his back on the business world to become an "outsider artist" hooked on shrooms and other forms of mind-altering drugs who utilises mathematics in order to find tangible connections between potent plants and company trading stocks.  In other words, it's ten minute video designed to allow the artist to place a pair of metaphoric quotation marks around what's to come.

Across the rest of the exhibition we're presented with the "results" of "Traumberg's" "research".  There are "gematria charts" in which various FT Global 500 companies are represented by a series of brightly coloured psychoactive plants.  There are diagrams which explains how these two entirely disparate entities could be mathematically connected.  "Outsider artworks", drawings depicting the 92 psychoactive plants with their traditional uses and illustrations of their mental effects, like a Rock Family Tree of psychedelia.  Paintings of the visions he "shared" with "shamans" throughout the world.  Video stills and photos which have been used during the introductory film.  Plus a series of "glitch graphs" which are supposed to chart the active compounds in psychoactive plants.

All of which synopsis should indicate that I wasn't that much inthralled by any of this.  Some of Triester's other project seem very intriguing, but The Gardener hits a nexus of subjects with which I'm less impressed.  The heroic city trader.  The mind altered outsider artist.  The notion of setting up a fictional artist and then working within the rules of their artistic expression as a way of expressing your own interests.  Never quite being sure if the thing I'm looking at is supposed to be satire.  Whilst sections of it are well executed and I could imagine someone else finding much to think about, and I did see one visitor on the Monday who was very excited despite the video not working, I faded pretty quickly into a miasma of why questions on the Thursday in an empty gallery space and no one to discuss the implications.  If ever I needed an invigilator to talk to, it was here.

Oh well, you can't like everything... After this I think I need somewhere that is truly tranquil, peaceful, restful.  A panacea for the cares of mind. Or somewhere fun.  How about B ...

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