The Liverpool Biennial's aim is to establish a world class contemporary visual art event in Liverpool that celebrates and encourages excellence, risk, creativity, diversity, participation and debate.
(Edited highlights of the panel's review taken from the teletext subtitles that are generated live for Newsnight Review.)
I liked the idea that all the art should be only stuff that could exist in Liverpool. I like the interactivity. The results are patchy, at best. Yoko Ono was the most surprising. I usually find her inane, fatuous and utterly annoying. My Mummy was Beautiful was all of those things. What rescued it was the visitors coming in and responding and writing their comments about their mothers. That felt real and genuine.
But a lot of the stuff felt like easy answers to pedestrian questions. I found it disappointing that they didn't live up to the idea and the goal they were trying to set themselves.
John Carey, one of the pedestrian questions was, "Where the hell am I going to go next?" It's all over the city; you have to go and look for it. Did you stumble across stuff?
Yes. I found that quite exhilarating, that so many people in different parts were putting devotion into stuff which, I agree, is patchy. But everyone will find something. I found, for example, in the Fact Gallery in Wood Street, a video installation by a Shanghai artist. It's just two teenagers playing on a beach with teenage musicians, with the water lapping against the rocks. It's very threatening and very sad, and it's about how youth passes and is destroyed by nature. That was wonderful. Then the other end, the vulgarity spectrum, the man inside this wonderful orange house by Peter Johansson - everything is orange: the walls, the roof, the taps, lavatory, the bath. It's like walking into a big wine gum and it's beating out Abba. He thought it was sad. I thought it was wonderful, and you got out of the wind of Liverpool, which is quite important!
Bonnie, it's one of the things you can't miss.
This is my second Biennial, and what struck me is the work felt smaller, it felt more personal. It felt more as if people were contemplating inner worlds as opposed to the outer worlds. I think always visual artists, in a way, give us a curve and a feeling about what we may be thinking of feeling about that we can't quite articulate yet. Novelists are on the other end and visual artists are first. These artists were saying basically they are looking around trying to understand the world. There is a scary CCTV exhibit there that is incredibly frightening.
Yes. That is in the Tate Gallery. That's Jill Magid, I think. She films herself on CCTV directing the policemen.
And the policemen are watching her as she is moving. If you walk down Oxford Street in a day, you can get filmed 300 times.
I thought that that was one of the works that could change your view of the city. When you walked over the paving stones, you thought, "I am being looked at." The Tate to me was disappointing. It was only when I went to the Bloomberg Contemporaries that I saw a piece called the Goalkeeper, by Samson Kambalu, a sinister suitcase filled with odd balls. You didn't know if they were drugs or something worse being smuggled. You get close and see they are home-made footballs from Africa. It was deeply poignant, but that was the only thing that really moved me.
It is that sort of smallness and that kind of immediacy which is what moved me. I read the whole show as these individual statements about an unsteady, unfamiliar, suddenly very strange world, and as if we are now pulling our covers over our head, honing in to what we know and understand. The ballroom with the continuous songs going on, Yoko's pieces, the lady on the CCTV. That's what really moved me. I thought it was perfect in Liverpool. That's the perfect place for this to happen as well.
Actually, the John Moore was wonderful: the figurative painting in the John Moore. There was one that was second prize by Andrew Grasi. Beautiful. And a woman called Sophie Aston, who did a shimmering beach with what looked like a pool with sort of fossils. It was just on the edge of realism. Extraordinarily evocative painting. A man called Jason Brooks who did a sexed-up pre-Raphaelite of the young girl picking apples out of the grass. I would have gone to Liverpool for any one of those three.
It's very personal. That's the idea, to take us to the next place, to the next level.