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In line with Government guidance, this final chapter will open the doors to the city, welcoming visitors from across the country to safely enjoy the UK’s largest free festival of contemporary art. In the lead up to the festival, Liverpool Biennial has appointed Dr Samantha Lackey as the new Director of the Biennial.
“It is an honour to accept this appointment and to be part of such a strong and dynamic team here in Liverpool. During these past four months as Interim Director, I have witnessed the power of this Biennial’s creative vision, developed by Manuela Moscoso and our artists. Together they have created a vital and thought-provoking edition with The Stomach and the Port, addressing some of the big questions of our times and overcoming significant challenges which the pandemic has presented along the way. We are profoundly grateful to our supporters and partner venues, in particular Liverpool City Council, Arts Council England and the recent grant from the Government’s Culture Recovery Fund, this valuable contribution will enable us to open Liverpool Biennial 2021 safely and to play an active role in reigniting the cultural hub that is the city of Liverpool”.
The Stomach and the Port, curated by Manuela Moscoso, presents a total of 50 artists from 30 countries around the world with 150 works of art, including 47 new commissions. It explores concepts of the body, drawing on non-Western thinking where the body is seen as fluid, being continuously shaped by, and actively shaping its environment. To navigate the breadth of the Biennial and to make connections between the artworks, a series of trails across the city will gather the exhibitions, outdoor sculptures and installations around the 3 curatorial entry points of The Stomach and the Port – Stomach, Porosity and Kinship.
The Stomach / Waterfront Trail highlights the role of the stomach, the bodily organ through which we engage with and digest the world. The stomach, similar to the port, is a place where the inside and outside meet and a process of transformation occurs. At the heart of this Biennial, is Liverpool’s history as a port city, an active agent in the process of modernisation, change, and colonialism. The Porosity / Business District Trail centres around the state of being porous; how our permeable skin reacts to the world around us, absorbing the history of our individual journeys. Finally, the Kinship / City Centre Trail revisits the bonds and social relationships which connect us to the world, from our loved ones to our wider community, to other species and beyond, including every aspect of our environment – be it natural, technological or synthetic – that produces and sustains life.
“The Stomach and the Port reflects on systems of exchange, how borders are not only geographic but also political and subjective constructs, the outcome of a historical process of division which began in the modern, colonial world. Developed over several years, this Biennial gathers practices that are deeply engaged with different forms of existence that challenge rigid categories. They include kinship, porosity, and bodily experience, embracing ways of digesting and continuously producing the world, rather than only consuming it. They also address bodies embedded in concrete historical, linguistic and cultural contexts, and knowledge that does not only come from the mind. Rooted in decolonising our experience of the world, the artists collaboratively present a re-calibration of the senses and a catalyst for change.”
Tate Liverpool (until 20 June) exhibits new commissions and existing works by Ines Doujak and John Barker, Linder, Jutta Koether and Ebony G. Patterson, alongside works from Tate’s collection including Judy Chicago, Nicholas Hlobo, Martine Syms, Anu Põder and Ithell Colquhoun. Patterson’s opulent, tactile hand-embellished textiles and new floor work draws the viewer’s gaze to the fragmented and unsettling representations of historically marginalised bodies that are embedded within. They form just part of the broad range of collages, drawings, paintings, sculptures and video on display, spanning 80 years and 4 continents. Connected by the history of Feminism, each work is a call to action to reject acts of subordination to racialised, feminised and gendered bodies and to recall the power of the body in all its different forms.
At Open Eye Gallery (until 6 June) Zineb Sedira’s large-scale sculptures and photographic prints from her series Sugar Routes (2013), depicting sugar extracted from different parts of the world and housed in a modern warehouse in Marseille, are juxtaposed alongside Alberta Whittle’s film, between a whisper and a cry (2019), a reflection on memory, labour and the afterlives of colonialism in our contemporary world. Both artists engage with histories of the transatlantic movement of enslaved people, showcasing how different forms of the past exist in the present.
David Zink Yi’s video installation Horror Vacui (2009) at the National Museums Liverpool’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr Building (until 27 June), combines footage of rehearsals of the Cuban Latin band ”De Adentro y Afuera” with images of Afro-Cuban rituals. Based on African diasporic intellectualities, the film highlights the music’s use of polyrhythm and how it represents the plural construction of identity that counters binary positions.
Sonia Gomes, Xaviera Simmons and Invernomuto & Jim C. Nedd will present sculpture, photography and music at Cotton Exchange (until 27 June), each drawing on a multitude of narratives within the layered and entangled histories of the American experience with Simmons in particular looking at the construction of ‘whiteness’ in relation to the history of slavery and its legacy. The former Cotton Exchange is symbolic of the city’s economy and societal history; the building is explicitly and integrally tied to a time in the 19th and 20th century, when wealth and economic prosperity depended upon the enforced movement of people, enslavement, trade and labour.
At Liverpool’s Central Library (until 27 June), Yael Davids’ new work Wingspan of the Captive (2021) references the Library’s 19th century book Birds of America by John James Audubon, and explores the concepts of migration, the sentiments of belonging, and what it means to look, to study and to be studied.
In a series of weekly phone calls, A Regurgitation is a Song is a Spell (Consultations to recreate the colonial disease) (2021) by Luisa Ungar offers members of the public a personal experience to engage with experts in clairvoyance. Inspired by reports of contagion, hygienisation and witch-hunting, each unique conversation connects the participant back in time through the interpretation of colonial material located in the city. Based on official records, rumour and historical gossip, Ungar explores ways of reclaiming practices that were marginalised by the modern-capitalist world, revising forms of deprivation of women’s voices in connection to local history. Inspired by official records, rumour and historical gossip, each unique conversation will connect the participant back in time to unlock the myths and truths of Liverpool’s history of witchcraft and natural medicine, practices that were banned alongside the increasing oppression of women in the development of the modern-capitalist world. The calls will take place three evenings a week from Thursdays to Saturdays (from 29 April until 27 June).
The Grade II listed former department store, the Lewis’s Building (until 27 June) will open-up 3 of its floors for Liverpool Biennial 2021 to present a wide array of multi-disciplinary art works and new commissions. Highlights include Taiwanese artist Luo Jr-shin’s immersive Like a filter, matters passed through you and became a part of you (2021) which will transport visitors to a nightclub toilet, complete with sticky floors and coloured lights; Camille Henrot investigates co-dependency between parent and child in her series Wet Job (2020–2021), while her accompanying new sculptures Iron Deficiency and End of Me and A Free Quote (2021), refer to bodily transformation from liquid to vapour, from solid to liquid and from contained to leaking; Jes Fan uses borosilicate glass to create his entangled series of tubes Network for Staying Low to the Ground (2021); and Jenna Sutela’s nnother (2020) focuses on gestation, presenting a conversation between imaginary organisms with both organic and synthetic attributes, one of whom lives inside the other. Other works by Alice Channer, Lamin Fofana, Reto Pulfer, Ane Graff, Diego Bianchi, Pedro Neves Marques, Sohrab Hura, and Erick Beltrán, contribute to the overarching question of what we consider a body to be and what it means to be human.
New commissions at Lush Liverpool Spa (until 27 June) call for the end of violence and advocate for politics of care among humans and beyond, from Christopher Crozier’s exploration of the global oil economy’s impact on the Caribbean through drawing to Ayesha Hameed’s video installation, charting the first undersea telegraphic cable between India and Britain during the British Empire, to Jenna Sutela’s installation drawing on her I Magma series (2019- ongoing). A key work is Neo Muyanga’s A Maze in Grace (2021) which traces back the history of the hymn “Amazing Grace” to its origins within the city of Liverpool, home to its composer, English slaver-turned-abolitionist John Newton, from where the song then travelled to the US, becoming an emblem of the Civil Rights Movement.
Elsewhere, FACT (until 29 August) presents The Only Good System is a Soundsystem (2021), a new audio-visual commission by B.O.S.S. (Black Obsidian Sound System), positioning sound system culture as a space of communal strength, where kinship is formed and reciprocated, against a background of repression and discrimination in the UK. Along with film works by Zheng Bo from his Pteridophilia series, including a new film created for the Biennial, the installations suggest ways of coming together that move beyond our experience as individual humans, incorporating the world of humanity, nature and technology.
The artists exhibiting at Bluecoat (until 5 September) also acknowledge the kinship attachments between humans and nature. Paintings by Jadé Fadojutimi explore the constant exchange between bodies and their environment as our identities continue to evolve. Films including Jíibie (2019) by Laura Huertas Millán and Fog Dog (2020) by Daniel Steegmann Mangrané, together with sculptural works by Roland Persson, Kathleen Ryan and André Romão, propose ways in which we belong to the world beyond our physical boundaries, considering ourselves as nature, not just part of it.
To celebrate Liverpool’s iconic architecture and public spaces, the Biennial’s series of outdoor sculptures and installations will be extended on 23 April with the addition of Erick Beltrán’s sound and graphic works Superposition (2021), animating a fleet of ComCab taxis driving throughout the city, along with the arrival of Daniel Steegmann Mangrané’s La Pensée Férale (2021) at Crown Street Park on 28 April. Outdoor works already on display include Rashid Johnson’s Stacked Heads (2020) at Canning Dock Quayside; Teresa Solar’s Osteoclast (I do not know how I came to be on board this ship, this navel of my ark) (2021) at Exchange Flags; Linder’s Bower of Bliss (2021) at Liverpool ONE; Jorgge Menna Barreto’s mural Mauvais Alphabet (Liverpool) (2021) on the side of Bluecoat; and Larry Achiampong’s Pan African For the Relic Travellers’ Alliance (2017 – ongoing) which can be found at ten locations across the city centre.
The Biennial Online Portal liverpoolbiennial2021.com underpins the physical festival, introducing each artist taking part alongside the public online programme Processes of Fermentation, bringing the Biennial into the home, the classroom and the community. It combines an inspiring line-up of live performances, artist interviews, curatorial videos, artist-led discussions and workshops, a film programme, and podcasts, hosted alongside rich and engaging multimedia content, enabling audiences to enjoy the Biennial from home. In addition, a vibrant selection of online and physical resources is available for children and young people.
Forthcoming events include the LB x a-n Artist Talk on 27 April, as part of a-n The Artists Information Company’s 40th anniversary celebrations, featuring the artists Alice Channer and SHELL LIKE. On 21 May, as part of Liverpool’s LightNight, Haroon Mirza will premiere his new digital performance The Three /\/\/\/’s. Combining soundwaves with patterns of movement, the performance fosters a sense of ritual and gathering informed by the Fibonacci sequence and golden ratio. This digital commission will accompany the existing series, featuring Transmission: A series of five Podcasts on Disease and Pandemics in a Distorted World (2021) by Ines Doujak, in collaboration with John Barker; B3(TNSCAM) (2021) by artists UBERMORGEN, digital humanist Leonardo Impett and curator Joasia Krysa; and free participative tutorials by KeKeÇa Body Percussion Ensemble.
Running alongside Liverpool Biennial’s 2021 programme, exhibitions at partner venues will include: the UK’s biggest painting competition, the John Moores Painting Prize, at the Walker Art Gallery; the retrospective of acclaimed photographer Don McCullin, together with Aliza Nisenbaum’s paintings of Merseyside’s NHS Frontline workers at Tate Liverpool; Soft Boys, the solo presentation of the Liverpool-based artist Kiara Mohamed at FACT, and AI: More Than Human at the World Museum. In addition, 18 local, regional and national artists will be represented by the Independents Biennial, delivered by Art in Liverpool.
Larry Achiampong, Black Obsidian Sound System, Erick Beltrán, Diego Bianchi, Alice Channer, Judy Chicago, Ithell Colquhuoun, Christopher Cozier, Yael Davids, Ines Doujak & John Barker, Dr. Lakra, Jadé Fadojutimi, Jes Fan, Lamin Fofana, Ebony G. Patterson, Sonia Gomes, Ane Graff, Ayesha Hameed, Camille Henrot, Nicholas Hlobo, Laura Huertas Millán, Sohrab Hura, Invernomuto & Jim C. Nedd, Rashid Johnson, KeKeÇa, Jutta Koether, SERAFINE1369, Ligia Lewis, Linder, Luo Jr – shin, Jorgge Menna Barreto, Haroon Mirza, Neo Muyanga, Pedro Neves Marques, Roland Persson, Anu Põder, Reto Pulfer, André Romão, Kathleen Ryan, Zineb Sedira, Xaviera Simmons, Teresa Solar, Daniel Steegmann Mangrané, Jenna Sutela, Martine Syms, UBERMORGEN, Leonardo Impett and Joasia Krysa, Luisa Ungar, Alberta Whittle, Zheng Bo, David Zink Yi.
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