Sugababes share Blood Orange remix of ‘Same Old Story’ and talk fighting for independence: Another snatch of the press junket and this time Keisha talks about how little she had to do with the creation of the later albums and how she was essentially told to shut up when she attempted any creative control. The album she's talking about is either Change or Catfights and Spotlights both of which gave is some imperious singles (About You Now, Change and Girls) but mostly come across as generic girl group material without its own sound. The Same Old Story remix is fine but you can't really improve on perfection.

Liverpool Biennial 2021: Day Three.

Art Everything ends and in the case of the Liverpool Biennial 2021, that's next Sunday 27th June after just over a month. Most years, the Biennial's enjoyed a lengthy residency in the city, so it's been possible to visit just one or two venues per day and savour the content (for better or worse) but with that impending deadline and entirely having lost track of time, yesterday, I tried to see as much of it as possible in one day, five whole buildings. With FACT's contribution running to late August, yesterday was about working through the temporary spaces, Lewis's Building, Lush, Dr Martin Luther King Jr. Building and the Cotton Exchange (as well as the Blue Coat).

Arguably the Biennial's been at its most impressive when occupying these liminal spaces. Some of the best exhibitions of the past like City Scapes (RIP) at the Copperas Hill Post Office or at Rapid Hardware, have been places in transition between their old utility and new creating juxtapositions between the artworks and their surrounding concrete or brick-based remnants of humanity and that was certainly the case this year. Office doors in the basement of the Cotton Exchange are still intact, the windows indicating these were the workspaces of Inspector Tyador Borlu, Kommissar Reed and Komissa Ga-L-M (its possible some of the letter have gone missing from that last name).

Unlike previous Biennials of course we have a virtual recording of these spaces available for revisit. YouTuber Nostalgia Nerd recently posted a watchable essay about how these liminal spaces work in retro computer games and its noticeable that these 3d models can be navigated using the now expected key combination of W-A-S-D with the mouse allowing us to look about the space like a first-person shooter.  It's not an entirely flexible experience.  Although in reality the visitor can wander around the far corners of the vast space on the second floor of Lewis's, its digital counterpart keeps the user with the boundaries of artwork.

All of this appreciation of the packaging might suggest to you that their content didn't overwhelm me and you'd be right.  Even allowing for eighteen months of avoiding art spaces causing a fair amount of rustiness in my appreciation, its fair to say that there wasn't much to engage me across the venues.  But I should I'd add the caveat that this probably had as much to do with personal taste and expectations than the work just simply being bad, which was so much the case under recent administrations.  It's also possible that some gems were missed or not given due concentration due to the whistle-stop nature of the visit.

The artists brought together at Lewis's consider the nature of humanity and none more so that Diego Bianchi whose Inflation (2021) who presents within the space and on video a series of fleshy objects representing organic matter mixed with the content of garages as well as objects of pleasure and technology, so tires and random metal, wine bottles and mobile phones.  The imagery is redolent of Japanese cinema, notably Akira, Tetsuo: The Iron Man and and Tokyo Gore Police and is an utterly captivating infusion of body horror which finds its apogee in a figure completely covered in junks of concrete.

As the artist and his cohorts wobble about yet more liminal spaces on-screen encumbered by these weighty costumes, we contemplate how humanity itself has to carry these supposed innovations around, offering freedom on the one hand, but restricting us physically on the other.  How many of us find ourselves accompanied with not just mobile phones, but tablets and ipods and also a spaghetti of charging cables and proprietary plugs in our backpacks forever distracted with wanting to know when an electric outlet will be available and how long we'll have to wait for the battery symbol on the screen to drift by to 100%?

The other highlight of the day was at the Bluecoat, Kathleen Ryan's three startling sculptures, Bad Cherries, Bad Lemon and Bad Peach.  Ryan uses semi-precious stones and others to recreate these various rotting fruits, with the most opulent minerals saved for the heart of the decay.  They're both beautiful and horrible as they imitate the colours of decomposition, the brown crazing which builds on the lemon's skin accurately represented.  All three are everything I want from an artwork, a feast for the eyes but with a thematic undercurrent, in this case how wealth inequality and how its happened at the expense of the environment.

If I've any suggestions for future Biennial entries, its to engage with how spaces are used and the kinds of work on display (so no change here).  With some extra planning, the second floor of Lewis's could easily have contained the contents of Lush, Dr Martin Luthor King Jr Building and the Cotton Exchange, none of it feeling particularly site specific. the latter seeming particularly remote, especially on a rainy day when you're wearing slipping shoes without any grip.  I wonder how many people visited the MLK building expecting something more than a two screen video projection.

Plus there are occasions when some spaces are occupied by the presentation of documentaries.  Again, this is dependent on taste, but I once again question whether a gallery space is the best venue for offering a half hour documentary about an Institute of Fine Arts or the importance of the cocoa leaf to the Murai Murai community in the Columbian Amazon.  Given the size of the rooms in which these pieces are projected, are they a way of making the visitor feel as though there's more work on display than there actually is which even as I type feels like an unfair assumption and the fact this Biennial exists is a miracle but I can't help wishing there was more of it.

With the serendipitous nature of exhibition visits, I wonder how many folks will watch more than a few minutes of these documentaries before moving on and whether a creation can fulfil its aims in that time.  Unlike some video art pieces, they're not very easy to dip in and out of.  The Alberta Whittle film which was on display at the Open Eye can still be viewed at the Lewis's building, but on a smallish television within the bustle of distractions elsewhere in the space.  Again I wonder if in future years, thanks to current technology, it wouldn't be possible to present these documentaries in an accompanying portal online so they can seen in a more comfortable setting even if a small donation is required.

After that unwarranted carping, have I enjoyed Biennial 2020(ish)?  Enough to write about it, which is more than in recent years.  There's a definite vibrancy which has been missing from other instalments in the past decade and the presentation has been admirable.  At each venue there is a reception table with extremely helpful and engaged volunteers giving each a sense of occasion with hundreds of copies of the festival guide and shops selling merchandise (although five pounds for a shopping bag is a bit rich for me this year).  So thank you for being able to make it out here in these most difficult of years and I look forward to seeing what you'll achieve in the future when all of this is over.
Jackie Lane who played Doctor Who's Dodo in 1966 has died. As Pip says, like so many companion actors in the period she was poorly served by the production team, especially in relation to her departure even though she had a light comic touch when given the room, as can be seen in The Gunfighters. She quit acting after that but became a theatrical agent, repping Tom Baker, Nick Courtney and Janet Fielding, who also became an agent and helped negotiate Paul McGann's contract on the TV Movie. Even for those who were only on-screen briefly, Doctor Who is a small world. It was a real treat when Jackie made a surprise appearance during the 50th anniversary celebrations. Rest in peace, lady.
The real reason Doctor Who makes fans want to hide behind the sofa Thoroughly brilliant essay from Behind The Sofa alumnus Paul Kirkley about the sheer terror of being a Doctor Who fan. It's particularly pertanent to me because I'm in the overwritten quagmire of a wilderness years first Doctor novel at the moment and although it's a slog and if it had been any other book I would have dropped it by now, the quest is the quest, and so I'm still plodding through the damn thing two chapters a day.

The Coffee Collection:
Subway,
Hanover Street,
Liverpool.

Liverpool Biennial 2021:
Day Two.

Art In the last Biennial entry, I wondered if the exhibition at the Open Eye Gallery would be photographed in three dimensions and uploaded as a VR experience. Well, it has and here it is. Indeed all of the Biennial exhibitions have had this treatment including the Tate even though its largely a collection display. So for the past ten minutes I've been wandering around the Open Eye Gallery show even though it closed a fortnight ago.

It's probably more immersive experience through the Oculous Rift headset the Matterport powered VR window recommends.  The experience in browser is rather like a slight more flexible version of Google's Street View, although in slightly higher definition than they usually employ in art gallery reproductions.  Its a good of record of what was in a space rather than an attempt to recreate the exhibition.  Some elements, such as the sculpture, simply don't reproduce.

The downstairs portion of the show features the work of Zineb Sedira, whose series of large scale 2013 photographs depicting the interior of a sugar warehouse in Marsaille can be seen in higher definition on her website.  Much of the draw to these is presumably the scale, seeing the detail of the matter within the spaces and how its effected the storage facilities, which is just about possible to see on screen in the vaguest terms.  Really sorry I missed the chance to see them up close.

The other work at the Open Eye was a documentary by Alberta Whittle, the Bardian-Scottish artist who'll be representing her kingdom at the Viennia Bienniale in 2022 (assuming it goes ahead).  between a whisper and a cry brings together found footage with newly filmed material "referencing the legacy of colonial extraction as the starting point for present-day climate instability in the Caribbean".

Unfortunately, this I have completely missed.  Understandably (presumably) for rights reasons, the VR gallery doesn't contain a link to the film, just a still image with a space containing four plastic socially distanced chairs.  Co-cinematographer Matthew Arthur Williams has some intriguing stills on his website but there doesn't seem to be even a pay subscription version available even though it's also been screened in a typical auditorium setting.  I'll have to keep an eye out for it.  An open eye?

With the rest of the Biennial pretty much closing on Sunday, this afternoon I booked tickets for everything else on Wednesday (apart from FACT which will still be around in August).  Regular readers will know its years since I tried to do it almost all at once so its bound to be exhausting and a fight to fit it all in before gallery fatigue descends.  But fortunately there'll still be a version of these exhibitions online if there's anything I miss or misunderstand.