Liverpool Biennial 2016:
Mr Chilli Restaurant.

Art "They're on the wall there, there, there, at the end there..." The restaurant worker has obviously had the same conversation with a few people who've wandered through the door asking to see the Biennial pieces. Perhaps she also leads them into the back to the photographs next to entrance to the toilets. She's very patient and I'm slightly embarrassed that having decided to complete the Biennial on this particular day, I don't have time to stop for food.

Elena Narbutaite and Eduardo Costa, Sun Kiss Feline, 1982-2016 originated as a performance/cum fashion shoot in the swimming pool area at the Adelphi Hotel. Utilising designs originally proposed by Costa in the early Eighties, Narbutaite hopes to give the impression of an interspecies transformation as the swimsuit bear leopard and tiger cut-out patterns.  As well as the display at Mr Chilli they've appeared in local fashion magazines.

Part of me wonders if the images would have been more effective as a piece of video art rather than as still images outside of magazines, a couple of the shots feel like still frames from a video piece.  Not a documentary about the making of the photos, there are certainly enough of those in the world, but these images moving, providing a better illustration of the transformation which without the accompanying note isn't obvious from the shots themselves.

As with the display at the Masterchef Restaurant the pictures don't seem out of place in the environment, the restaurant already filled with pictures and menus and advertising, which seems to the point of this strand, placing works in an environment where patrons who might not necessarily visit the Biennial can unexpectedly interact with the festival.  What have patrons to the restaurant made of these images?

Next Destination:
The Walker Art Gallery.

Liverpool Biennial 2016:
143 Granby Street.

"Well, if that's what you want. I mean it's a bit soon... I had so many places I had wanted to take you. The Fifteenth Broken Moon of the Medusa Cascade, the Lightning Skies of Cotter Palluni's World, Diamond Coral Reefs of Kataa Flo Ko... Thank you. Thank you, Donna Noble, it's been brilliant. You've... you've saved my life in so many ways. You're... You're just popping home for a visit, that's what you mean."
-- The Doctor, "The Sontaran Stratagem"
Art The time ship takes its final trip to Toxteth for one of the Monuments of the Future, a stained glass window from artist Arseny Zhilyaev illustrating The Last Planet Parade, the supposed final occasion when a particular concentration of planets and stars appear in the nights sky and viewable from a particular position on Earth and only on a single spot in the universe.

Within the space there's a long apparently biographical note, about how Zhilyaev's interest in space developed from childhood, his father seeing Yuri Gagarin on a visit to Manchester and experiencing his first Planet Parade, something he celebrates every 22 January with a fancy dress party.  As with many of the pieces in this Biennial, the fiction is frictional.

As well as the window, there's a display of news clippings, photographs and books connected to the biographical note, just the sort of literature my Dad kept from his childhood and I grew up reading before I could afford to buy franchise novels.  For the purposes of future historians and people who don't have time to visit the exhibition, here's a bibliography:

ANDERSSON, Poul.  1973.  The Rebel Worlds.  Coronet.

CLARKE, Arthur C.  1975.  The Lion of Comarre & Against The Fall of Night.  Corgi.

CLARKE, Arthur C.  1969.  Voices From The Sky.  Mayflower.

GREENHOUGH, Terry.  1979.  The Wandering Worlds.  New English Library.

MOORE, Patrick.  1978.  The Observer's Book of Astronomy.  F Warne Publishers Ltd.

TUCKER, Wilson.  1971.  The Time Masters.  Signet Books.

TURNELL, Reginald.  1975.  The Observer's Book of Manned Spaceflight.   F Warne Publishers Ltd.

VAN VOGT, A.E., 1973.  Children of Tomorrow.  F Warne Publishers Ltd.

Next Destination:
Mr Chilli Restaurant.

Liverpool Biennial 2016:
ABC Cinema.

"Cut! Cut! Who let those bums in here?"
-- Steinberger P. Green, "The Feast of Steven"
Art In a rare move, I'm going to be perfectly honest with you, the main draw for visiting the ABC Cinema was to view the interior of the building rather than the festival.  In the 90s, my film going was a relay between the Odeon on Lime Street, the 051 Cinema on Mount Pleasant and this edifice.  It's here I saw Wayne's World, Heat, The Lost World: Jurassic Park, It's A Wonderful Life on several occasions and many more.

There's the occasion I attended a viewing of the 15 certificate of The Truth About Cats and Dogs in a screening with several families who'd clearly misunderstood the meaning of the title and somehow didn't leave during the phone masterbation scene.  When I complained to the manager, he too had thought that it was one for the kids "judging by the title".  Or Final Analysis where a friend and I spent the whole screening sat behind two older pupils from our school who were necking.

Twenty years later, I was initially slightly disorientated because the entrance is through the fire door onto Lime Street rather than up the main steps which is how it was accessed in 2008 when it was previously used as the Biennial's visitor centre, back when the festival had such things.  I mentioned that visit on this blog (which includes other cinema going anecdotes -- I wonder what Theresa is doing now).

On entry you're handed a torch by a volunteer because there are occasions when the space is plunged into darkness (see below) but otherwise you have a fair amount of freedom walk around the space where the stalls used to be.  Various artworks and installations have sectioned off the space but it's still possible to work out the geography of how the cinema was set out just before it closed in the late 90s.  The Liverpool Echo has plenty of images, even of spaces inaccessible to the public.

The key headline is that since 2008, when all three screens were intact, the two smaller auditoria have been removed so that the space has been returned to how it must have been when the cinema was originally built and it was quite natural for thousands of people to share the big screen experience.  What was the screen one (in my day) is back to being a currently inaccessible balcony and those smaller screens are now clearly where the stalls used to be.

Turning a corner reveals the old foyer, and I stood for a minute remembering where the original ticket office would have been and the refreshment stand.  As far as I can remember, by the time it closed the ABC still hadn't installed any kind of electronic ticketing so the hundreds of people piling in would still have been issued with a relatively primitive slip of the kind which served perfectly well for decades before box offices and refreshment stand were combined in multiplexes.

In a cycle of about fifteen minutes the space is plunged into darkness (hence the torches) and we're invited to sit in on of the collapsable chairs distributed across the front of the stalls to watch a piece of video art projected on a screen atop the stage in a decent approximation of the Picturehouse adverts featuring the music of Daniel Johnson.  For a few brief moments, even its its dereliction, the ABC Cinema on Lime Street returns to its original utility.

Fabien Giraud and RaphaĆ«l Siboni’s The Unmanned: 1922 – The Uncomputable, "reflects on Lewis Fry Richardson’s attempt to build a huge weather-forecast factory".  On screen, women represent various elements of their gender stereotypical and biological, from comfort in dark times to pregnancy while a voiceover narrates various apocalyptic situations befalling the planet due to man's poor judgement in relation to how to save us from climate change.

Seeing all this the same week The Futurist just up the road was demolished it was impossible not mourn slightly the loss of these "authentic" cinema experiences albeit that in reality this was mostly about horrible projection and sound, uncomfortable seating and having audience members in even closer proximity with their noise and eating.  But there's something antiseptic and uneventful about multiplexes; you might as well watch most films at home (which is mostly what I do now).

As ever there have been announcements and plans about the future of the space.  Back in 2007 the plan was for a boutique hotel.  Now it's a live music venue and media hub, plans which feel more certain due to the number of stakeholders involved and proper planning applications.  Although part of me wishes it could remain a cinema in the style of those Picturehouse adverts, the dereliction becoming a feature.  True love will find you in the end.

Next Destination:
143 Granby Street

Liverpool Biennial 2016:
George's Dock Ventilation Tower Plaza.

"Water is patient, Adelaide. Water just waits. Wears down the cliff tops, the mountains. The whole of the world. Water always wins."
-- The Doctor, "The Waters of Mars"
Art   For various reasons, I've walked near Betty Woodman's Liverpool Fountain on numerous occasions over the past few months since the Biennial opened but wanting to keep to the spirit of this project as much as possible made a point of either keeping my eyes front and centre or else selecting a completely different route in order to avoid it.  As we've discovered before, the best way to approach contemporary art is with a fresh eye in most situations and so why would I want to spoil myself?

Thankfully, it was well worth the wait.  A monumental sculpture, part of the Ancient Greece episode, it places shapes from sources that include, according to the Biennial literature,  "Greek and Etruscan sculpture, Minoan and Egyptian art, Italian Baroque architecture and the paintings of Bonnard, Picasso and Matisse."  Those influences are absolutely clear in the way the shapes have been fashioned and chosen colours, asymmetrical vases and statues in jarring colours.

The effect feels pleasingly dated, like a commission for the entrance hall of an office building or "modern hotel" from the 70s and 80s, not looking out of place, for example, in the old Senate House at Liverpool University or a Vegas money trap.  This isn't a criticism, one of my happiest days was visiting Le Defense in Paris and seeing work just like this at La Grande Arch and its surround commercial properties.

The shapes are augmented by copper piping pour water into a trough before, which was very welcome on the warm day I visited.  I stood for minutes with my hands cupped underneath letting the water flow into the space before periodically opening my fingers and letting the liquid fall through.  I did consider through it into my face but decided I didn't want to get my t-shirt wet.  Bedraggled has never been a good look.

Next Destination:
ABC Cinema

Liverpool Biennial 2016:
Open Eye Gallery.

"You are here because you want to know the truth about this starship. And I am talking to you because you’re entitled to know. When this presentation has finished, you will have a choice. You may either protest. Or forget. If you choose to protest understand this: if just one percent of the population of this ship do likewise, the program will be discontinued with consequences for you all. If you choose to accept the situation—and we hope that you will—then press the forget button. All the information I’m about to give you will be erased from your memory. You will continue to enjoy the safety and amenities of Starship UK, unburdened by the knowledge of what has been done to save you. Here then, is the truth about Starship UK and the price that has been paid for the safety of the British people. May God have mercy on our souls."
--- Starship UK Video Announcer, "The Beast Below"
Art Despite being from this city and being at just the right age, I have absolutely no memory of the student protest which is the subject of the recording of performance piece and connected video documentation on display at the Open Eye Gallery. In April 1985, I would have been ten years old which judging by the photographs was about the same age as a lot of kids who began marching at St George's Hall and worked their way through through city centre down Dale Street to the Pier Head.  But living out in Speke, my world very much limited to South Liverpool and with my prospects looking in the direction of the Blue Coat School in Wavertree, perhaps it was just something happening elsewhere.

The Liverpool schools march has already been the subject of an exhibition at the Blue Coat in 2011, which was reported on by BBC News at the time.  That was more of a historical affair with many more of the photographs taken by local photographer Dave Sinclair, which are also somewhat the basis for part of this display.  One of the criticisms I have of this display is that these photographs don't have a more prominent position; they could for example have been presented in the upstairs gallery, which at the inception of the Mann Island version of Open Eye was designated as a space dedicated to archival photography, instead of the continuation of installations from artists which are carried over from other venues.

The oddity of watching the group of volunteers recreating the walk stepping along such familiar streets brought to mind Biennials of the past when there was much of a sense of international artists creating work which reacted directly to the city. To be honest I spent much of it trying to work out why a couple of the faces seemed familiar and although I recognised a few people from the Biennial team, there were a couple I can only conclude I've seen at press days or private views around the city.  But I appreciate the artist Koki Tanaka's approach to highlighting the past, and how this was an example of how protest can work, the Thatcher government did slow down and re-evaluate their plans for the YTS scenes which were the subject of the march, only attempting them again later in a different form.

The problem as a visitor is this video is presented on a flat screen at the entrance to the display in a main walk through to the other galleries and back to reception and so as I discovered on the day I visited, it's impossible to watch without having people jostling to get past.  On the day I was there, a college group were being given instructions from a teacher, drowning out the sound of the speeches on the video which provided necessary context at beginning and end of the march.  It's a puzzling curatorial choice to have the key exhibit in such a compromised position especially since there's plenty of space elsewhere in the room, where two other screens containing interviews with people who marched and their children can be seen relatively unhindered.

Listening to them describe the reasons why they attended in 1985 and how they feel the issues they were raising back then are still relevant, I reflected by on the only street protest I've ever attended as as an undergraduate in Leeds in 1993 (I think), joining a crowd of contemporaries marching from Headingley, up Otley Road to the City Campus protesting against the dissemination of the grants, the introduction of loans and tuitions fees.  But even then I felt very uneasy about the affair and said as much to the two journalists from the Leeds Student paper.  What had seemed like a grassroots expression against something which would stop higher education from being accessible to someone from a poor background like me, I quickly noticed had been joined by people holding aloft placards advertising the Socialist Worker and about other unrelated issues.  By the time we reached the city centre and the rally on the Headrow, I peeled away.

Next Destination:
George's Dock Ventilation Shaft.

Soup Safari #71: Creamy Cheddar and Onion at the Warehouse Cafe.

Lunch. £4.50. Warehouse Cafe, Museum of Science and Industry, Liverpool Rd, Manchester M3 4FP. Phone: 0161 832 2244. Website.

My Favourite Film of 1929.

Film After last week's visit to blogging in 2005, let's shift backwards in time slightly further to 2002 and the BBC's The Collective, a cultural review website from a time when the corporation's online offering was experimental and exciting, when the idea was to simply try things out and see if they stuck, bend the remit of what the BBC could and should be doing for the public, but on the main site and not in a walled off garden like often brilliant BBC Taster.

Utilising the same log-in technology as the H2G2 website (a user submission version of the Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy), a profile I still retain today to access the iPlayer, The Collective allowed users to submit reviews of all aspects of culture so that it would appear alongside the work of professional reviews and other editorial content.

Rowan Kerek, the editor of the site was kind enough to contribute to Review 2003 and Rowan's answers are still readable here.  I think she's the Rowan who was later mentioned on the Wittertainment show.  I wonder if it was her idea to call the user pages "my space" just before myspace was founded (ask your grandparents).

Having my own blog, I mainly posted over there for the purposes of trying to win the weekly prize being handed out, I think at random, which I managed to win on several occasions.  Prizes included a Turin Brakes t-shirt which I still wear despite never being a fan and a dvd of Man With A Movie Camera, the first time I saw the film.

The BBC hosted version was finally pulled some time in 2014 but as with all of these old projects it lives on as part of the Wayback Machine and here's a link to the final iteration which includes a link to an editors note explaining that the website is about to close in 2008 when the first wave of programme pages were introduced and the philosophy of the website changed.

Here's my old profile which functions surprisingly well considering.  As you can see I copied the about me from this blog but there's plenty of content which didn't originally appear over here which I've now copied over with the correct date stamps which I'm the process of resurrecting and can be read more easily at this tag, or at least what can be salvaged.

Although the editorial offer now looks quite standard, then there wasn't another part of the BBC really covering these topics in this way and it stands very much as a forerunner to the channels Radio One and Six Music would become and an ancestor to the approach that's now enshrined at the BBC Three website, not to mention BBC Arts.