Eclectic Episodes: Liverpool Biennial 2016

by Cass Art

We journeyed through Liverpool’s past, present and future to help you navigate through the art maze of the Liverpool Biennial 2016.

This year, the Liverpool Biennial explores the fictions, histories and stories of Liverpool’s eclectic cultural history. Through a series of Episodes, from Ancient Greece to a utopian, futuristic China, explore the work of international artists and newly commissioned works embedded in various locations across the city.

Now in its 9th Year, the Biennial takes the form of six Episodes in total, realised across a series of galleries, public spaces, unused buildings and through live performance. Each episode, Ancient Greece, Chinatown, Children’s Episode, Software, Monuments from the Future and Flashback draws on a new element of Liverpool’s cultural history, often with artists featuring across several destinations. Find out more about the Episodes of the Biennial here.


Featured in the art space at Cass Art is a selection of limited edition prints commissioned for this year’s Biennial. The prints offer you the opportunity to own a work by a leading contemporary artist, including Mark Leckey, Betty Woodman and Sahej Rahal. Head to Cass Art Liverpool to purchase your print or click here to find out more about the limited edition prints available across the Biennial.


Next to Cass Art Liverpool is the celebrated gallery, the Bluecoat. For the Biennial, you are greeted by a data driven installation by Irish artist Dennis McNulty. In his book, ‘More Than Human’, science fiction writer Theodore Sturgen describes a scenario in which multiple human beings blend their abilities to act as a single organism.

McNulty pairs this idea with the ‘multinode’: a concept developed by pioneering cyberneticist Stafford Beer (1926 – 2002) to describe a collective biological or mechanic decision-making entity for a series of newly commissioned works for the Biennial. Through audience participation, the artwork is activated as a collective, performative technology that includes a data driven installation, a digital app and off-site performance. The Software Episode ties new technology and process with our everyday connections, allowing visitors the chance to connect across a series of works throughout the Biennial.

Bloomberg New Contemporaries

Featuring 46 artists chosen by a series of guest selectors, the Bloomberg New Contemporaries 2016 showcases the diverse approaches of emerging artists working today. From Richie Moment’s high octane, satirical videos to Michael Cox’s detailed paintings of urban architecture, explore how social, cultural and environmental changes to the world are represented in the New Contemporaries 30th Year exhibiting at the Bluecoat. 


FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology) is a media arts centre which hosts a year-round programme of exhibitions, film and engagement projects. For the Biennial, the lower level is transformed into a portal to revisit memories from the past.

The work of Krzysztof Wodiczko brings you face to face with your past. For Wodiczko, a flashback means the traumatic re-emergence of memories from the past. The presentation brings together exhibits from over 40 years spent working in collaboration with marginalised communities such as war veterans and the homeless to create a series of objects and machinery to discuss these past issues and help overcome these psychological traumas.

'Veteran Helmet' was created in 2015, and uses technology and prosthetics to aid veterans suffering from PTSD to share their experience of the condition. Other works include the 'Homeless Vehicle Project' (1988–89), for which Wodiczko worked with members of the homeless community in New York to create tools to aid their survival and communication.

The room itself is filled with connotations of scientific experimentation and futuristic machinery, an out of place window into the future through a series of shots from the early seventies. A large scale installation occupies the central rooms of the exhibition at the end of a dimly lit corridor.

Originally commissioned for the 53rd Venice Bienniale, Wodiczko’s 'Guests' (2011) is a hauntingly peaceful space in which to consider the overlapping narratives of human migration. Surrounded by blue prints and machinery, he reflects on the context of the current migratory crisis and debates around immigration, with a series of unavoidable videos and images taken from the activations of his exhibits.  


Hidden among the groceries of this international supermarket, discover a series of artworks hidden among the shelves at the Hondo Chinese Supermarket.

Since the Enlightenment, the distinction between humans and other creatures has been founded on intelligence. Ian Cheng’s 'Something Thinking of You' examines this boundary, arguing that technology now has the capacity to think and make decisions on its own. Cheng’s simulations use technology that enables characters and scenes to evolve outside his control, free to create their own universe.

At the counter, Lu Pingyuan’s story 'The Two-Sided Lake' can be taken away
as a piece of paper. It describes a diver emerging unexpectedly from a lake in a small village in China, having travelled there from a different lake in another country. 


Housed within the neo-classical architecture of The Oratory in the grounds of Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral, Lawrence Abu Hamdan’s ‘Rubber Coated Steel’ testifies to the relationship between technology and power, as part of the Ancient Greece episode. Abu Hamdan is a forensic audio analyst as well as an artist, and in 2014 he was asked to work on audio files that recorded the shootings of Nadeem Nawara and Mohamed Abu Daher on the West Bank of Palestine. These files, which proved that the boys were shot by real bullets and not rubber ones, are the starting point for a work about aesthetics, politics and the violence of sound and silence.

The Oratory includes one of Rita McBride’s ‘Perfile’ series, Lara Favaretto’s ‘Lost and Found’, andJason Dodge’s ‘What the Living Do’. It is also the place where visitors are invited to participate in a secret project, by saying the words "I like my friends" at the desk. 


As you walk through the Cains Bewery’s  canning hall, you encounter a number of episodes, including Chinatown, Flashback and the colourful Children’s Episode in the heart of the space.

You are first greeted by a collection of site specific works by Ramin Haerizadeh, Rokni Haerizadeh and Hesam Rahmanian who have ‘smuggled’ their work to Liverpool by sea in a shipping container from Dubia, where the Iranian artists are currently living in exile. The series of props, films and collaborative works features of bizzare characters, who’s whimsical attributes add comic value to the serious nature of the surrounding works.

At the centre of the vast space is Andreas Angelidakis’ ‘Collider’, which transports you through Liverpool’s past, present and future as part of the Flashback series. Inspired by the Large Hadron Collider, numerous artists have contributed to the journey, including Ana Jotta, Yin-Ju Chen and Koki Tanaka.

It takes team work to create Audrey Cottin's collaborative sculpture, 'Lift-Me'. At Cains Brewery, 'Flour Tables' invites you to create objects, figures and lanscapes with dough, whislt a graphic artist records the experience.

Also dispersed across each of the venues is Jason Dodge’s ‘What the Living Do’, which compromises small items that people left behind, such as sweet wrappers, cigarette butts, leaves, shells and used tickets, which the artists has been collecting for many years. This connects each venue with a subtle trail, which to the unknowing eye looks like discarded rubbish, which has resulted in many of the items being taken or cleaned away.

The Cains Bewery has been brewing beer since 1768 and houses a vibrant urban village of creative, independent companies. Don’t miss the vintage market on the weekends and delicious café for a pit stop on your journey across the Biennial.


The final stop across the city led us to Camp & Furnace, just minutes from Cains Brewery.

The final stop across the city led us to the Blade Factory in Camp & Furnace, just minutes from Cains Brewery. Travel down a flourecent yellow corridor in Mark Leckey’s ‘SOX Lamp’s, setting the scene for his feature Film for the Biennial, ‘Dream English Kid.’

Leckey has an ongoing fascination with the affective power of images, music and technology, and often uses reconfigured archival footage in his work. His installation forms part of the Flashback episode, showcasing a series of amateur footage sourced on Youtube from a gig from Leckey’s youth. Combing archival material from television shows, advertisements and music that represent significant events from his life in the 1970s, the film is presented in alongside new sculptural works connected to the material.

If you have time…

The Biennial has an array of spaces and practices to discover, with many site specific and feature length films to hidden in venues across the city. So if you have a little extra time, why not journey outside the city's immediate footprint and explore a new space...


Just a short walk outside of the city centre, the Toxteth Reservoir is now open to the public, exclusively for the Biennial 2016. Rita McBride’s large-scale installation consumes the space, bouncing toxic green lights from wall to wall. The piece represents an opening between real and fictional worlds.

The laser beams create a wormhole, in the form of a hyperbola – a smooth symmetrical curve with two branches, produced by the section of a conical surface. This site specific piece transforms a once disused reservoir into a portal to another dimension, an opportunity to enter a new world hidden among the pillars.

Elsewhere, McBride’s 'Perfiles' depict the outline of houses in Pompeii, a city in the South of Italy that was buried in metres of ash and pumice after the volcanic eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79AD. These sculptural memories of buildings consumed by time are distributed across the exhibition.

To find out more about the artists, locations and events across the Liverpool Biennial 2016, head to thier website.

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