First impressions of the Liverpool Biennial 2012

By Laura Davis on Sep 14, 12 03:20 PM in Visual arts

IT'S Liverpool Biennial press day, when we lucky journalists (and arts professionals) get to explore the festival ahead of the public. Yes, we're spoiled but if it helps we know it. It's one of the most exciting days of the year (or two years if you're thinking biennially) but it flies by and there's so much to see that it's hard to take it all in.

Here then are some photos (taken on my phone so forgive their wobbliness) with just a few comments. I'll be reviewing many of the exhibitions over the next 10 weeks and have also recorded some video of artists talking about their work that I'll post on this blog over the weekend, when I can get on a computer with editing software.

This morning I've been to the Cunard, the Open Eye Gallery, Doug Aitken's The Source and the John Moores Painting Prize - I'll announce the winner here later today but you can view the announcement live at 6.30pm on the competition's website.

I'll be heading our again this afternoon to catch some more work as well as Rhys Chatham's A Crimson Grail for 100 Guitars and 8 Basses at Liverpool Cathedral, a free performance which you can turn up to on a first come first served basis (starts at 7.30pm this evening).


Andrea Bowers, City of Sanctuary, Cunard Building. It's really interesting to see interventions in such a traditional, ironic space. This is where the passengers would have waited to board the cruise liners, which fits in nicely with the Biennial's theme of hospitality"and The Unexpected Guest.

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Superflex, Liverpool to Let, Cunard Building. These signs were created in response to the huge amount of empty offices and commercial spaces in Liverpool's financial spaces.


Trevor Paglen, Prototype for a Nonfunctional Satellite, Cunard Building. This is a satellite that does not work, inviting us to ask interesting questions about the motives behind a governmental desire to colonise outer space. It's also just really pretty.


Sylive Blocher, The Series: Speeches, Cunard Building

This is a guitarist singing Barack Obama's acceptance speech, turning one of the most empowering moments in history into a musical lament. It's just one of a series of speeches performed out of context in a way that makes you re-listen and question the familiar.

Having interviewed Doug Aitken about his art installation The Source, and writing a feature about it before it was up and running, it was great to finally see the finished work today. My first impression was one of being assaulted by voices, but after a few moments the experience felt a lot calmer and when you step closer to an individual screen you are able to listen to one person at a time talking about the inspiration for their work without the other voices encroaching.

Here's a trailer for the piece:

I'm not the only person who has been absorbed in the Biennial for weeks now. Here are some links to other pieces on the festival:

LDP Arts Authors

Laura Davis

Laura Davis

As the Liverpool Post's Arts Editor, Laura covers theatre, music, dance and the visual arts in Merseyside and beyond. Contact her at
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