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Biennial Blues

by James Canterbury

 

 

How we laughed at the poor young scouse guide at Liverpool ’s FACT gallery who mispronounced biennial as ‘bye-enny-al’ instead of ‘bye-un-arly.’  Still, how charming it is to see provincial cities such as run-down Liverpool attempting to re-brand themselves as shiny, post-industrial theme parks with events such as this. Put simply the Liverpool Biennial brings together international mediocrities and local nonentities in a vain attempt to forge some kind of artistic connection and in the process butter up the bureaucratic big-wigs in government who splash out fortunes on McCultureZones such as FACT.

 

The best thing to say about FACT is that the Cajun chicken baguette was edible if over-chilled, which was more than I could say about anything on display within the building itself. FACT is the centrepiece of Liverpool ’s new bid to become the so-called’ Capital’ of Culture. Has anyone told the nondescript little shitholes that bid for these meaningless titles that culture doesn’t need a capital thank you very much, especially not one like Liverpool . Has anyone informed the Blairite Demagogocrats that culture is an abstract concept and therefore cannot have a capital any more than art can have a head office.

 

These spineless, single cell architects of intellectual emptiness offer pose and pretence instead of solidity and substance and the Biennial is a suitable edifice to such artifice. FACT is its corporate HQ, a structure designed along the orthodox lines of fascistic kultur blueprints; a building devoid of warmth, of feeling, of conscience. A neo-brutalist gas chamber of the soul. Albert Spier would’ve loved it.

 

In Gallery A we have American naïve sculptor, Ruth Gilby who has teamed up with a few junior school children from the notorious Kensington district of Liverpool (no, it’s nothing like its London namesake) to produce tiny wax figurines with multiple, out-sized genitals such as Man With Six Big Dicks and Girl With Seventeen Tits And Four Pussys. It is without doubt one of the ghastliest exhibits of juvenile posturing I’ve ever witnessed, which is surprising as Ruth is now in her 50s and should be barred from working with children, criminals, the feeble minded and people with more money than sense for the rest of her tedious life. 

 

In Gallery B, local video installation artist Paul McCone’s unintentionally hilarious Liver Buildings At Dawn only highlights how pedestrian and parochial the whole concept is. Echoing Warhol’s mesmerising Empire State , Liver Buildings At Dawn follows three hours in the life of Liverpool’s most recognisable landmark as the sun slowly rises over the Mersey casting delicate shadows across the front aspect of the building. Any O Level conceptualist could’ve done this with more flair and imagination. I gave it fifteen minutes and was sat next to a derelict loudly consuming a Whopper burger who appeared to be far more impressed with the film than was I.

 

Across town in the innumerable and equally identikit galleries that have sprung up recently, other exhibitions consolidated my opinion that the biennial is little more than an excuse for local business people and bureaucrats to slap each other on the backs for attracting a wealth of self-appointed art fuhrers to town, people who in fact mock their very ordinariness and vulgarity behind their backs, but are quite happy to cash ridiculous amounts of money for openly mocking their benefactors. In the taverns of Naples one can pay young boys to defecate on your face for a few Euros. Liverpool has paid millions for a similar experience.

 

If this is supposed to show how cutting edge and cosmopolitan the city has become since the decline of the 70s and 80s, then I, like many of the natives no doubt, would love to see the city return the rat-infested squalor of the past rather than be put through this type of self-regarding masquerade again.

 

          

 

 

 

 


 

 
   
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