Magazine article Artforum International

Liverpool Biennial of Contemporary Art

Magazine article Artforum International

Liverpool Biennial of Contemporary Art

Article excerpt

VARIOUS VENUES

Currently undergoing a notable cultural revitalization, the port of Liverpool was the hitherto unlikely venue for the latest addition to an increasingly--and, many would argue, unnecessarily--long list of biennial exhibitions of contemporary art around the world. The Liverpool Biennial comprised four separate shows: "TRACE," an international exhibition curated by Australian Anthony Bond; a lively and extensive response to this show initiated by local artists and irreverently titled "Tracey"; the twenty-first John Moores painting prize, awarded biennially; and the similarly well-established annual "New Contemporaries" show of student work.

The catchall thematic of the "trace" was, according to the catalogue introduction, intended to suggest "materials or objects that allow us to reconstruct histories through our personal memories and associations." This formulation was sufficiently vague to allow Bond to enlist fifty-six artists from around the world for his show, including both lesser-knowns and a lineup of usual suspects (Miroslaw Balka, Stan Douglas, Juan Munoz, Roman Signer, et al.) to engage with locations around the city. Bond's selection favored work with a strong visual and frequently visceral impact. His taste for Grand Guignol was especially evident in the queasy anatomical approximations fashioned from stockings, condoms, thread, and assorted medical instruments by gynecological-nurse-turned-artist Liu Shih-Fen and in Alastair MacLennan's ghoulish abandoned feast of pigs' heads, part of the artist's ongoing series of performances and installations commemorating the victims of Northern Ireland's "Troubles." Both of these works were e xhibited in the rough-and-ready, warehouselike environment of the Exchange Flags building, one of the two principal "TRACE" venues.

At the opposite end of the spectrum from such histrionics, in the more refined environs of the Tate Gallery Liverpool, were works like Igor and Svetlana Kopystiansky's fifteen-minute video of everyday objects tossing in the wind on a New York street and Ceal Floyer's low-key projection of a ball that appears to bounce repeatedly against a wall and the floor. Humor of varying sorts was provided elsewhere by Erwin Wurm's dumbly charming One-Minute Sculptures, in which ordinary objects are used to perform an action for which they were not designed, and Pierrick Sorin's rather more disconcerting video installations. …

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