Liverpool Biennial 2021:
Day One.

Art This morning, I visited an art gallery. The last time such a thing occurred was a good eighteen months ago, before the slow apocalypse, so the very fact of being able to stand outside Tate Liverpool in anticipation of actually going inside to look at an artwork felt like a milestone.  Just to be clear, the rest of the morning was a shambles.  After completing at the Tate, I'd planned to see the rest of what the Biennial describe as the Stomach/Waterfront Trail but both the Open Eye Gallery and the Martin Luthor King Jnr Building are closed on a Tuesday, a fact I'd completely failed to notice when checking the festival website just before booking my ticket to Tate.  The Open Eye closes on the 6th so I'm not sure if I'll see that now.  Perhaps they'll produce one of their excellent virtual reality thingys.

What was not a shambles was the re-opening of Tate Liverpool.  To keep numbers down, visitors have to pre-book a timeslot even for a free exhibition and as you enter, that's checked and an invigilator gives you some information about how to navigate the one way system in the gallery space and what to do in case of evacuation.  The whole process is incredibly reassuring; even though I'm fully vaccinated now, visits to non-usual indoor spaces are still rare and being able to go anywhere and feel safe is extra important.  A year or so of doing nothing of the sort does lead you to some behaviours and it's going to take a while to ease myself out of them.  It is getting easier, especially in shops.  I've even been to Marks and Spencers a few times.

The Tate's portion of the Biennial is ok.  Mainly drawn from the collection, the key theme is feminism and the specifically the fight against the dominant white, male, hetrosexual narratives which still hold sway in the art world and society in general.  A prime example would be Martine Syms' video installation Borrowed Lady (2016) consists of four large flat screen opposite each other on posts, each containing repeated shots of the artist making sounds and gestures, creating audio rhythms as a comment on how black and especially black, female culture has been appropriated by advertising and culture without acknowledging whilst also fetishizing the source.  Standing inside the circle, the result is confusing and difficult to experience.  Outside you're able to see how at least two screens interact with one another.

But the visually simplest piece ironically has the most to say.  Anu Poder's Tongues (1998) consists of a line of oversized but realistically crafted representations of, yes, tongues, cast in soap (accompanied by a metal dish containing another sat in resin).  The artist lived under a communist regime in a former Soviet Union which limited her freedom of speech, which has incredibly contemporary connections given recent events in Belarus.  Another unintended resonance is that tongues are one part of the anatomy strangers haven't been able to see of one another due to the need for masks, although in some cases that's no bad thing.  With a white stripe right down the middle, Lichen Planus has made my tongue look like a giant pink airport runway.  Onward.