Liverpool Biennial 2018 at the Bluecoat

Crumbling statues and empty space. Bluecoat, Liverpool’s centre for the contemporary arts, hosts a range of artists exhibiting for Beautiful world, where are you? across an interesting variety of mediums: soil, a multi-part installation and dance through watercolour.

Abbas Akhavan’s Variations on a Ghost occupies Bluecoat’s Vide. Created from soil using a technique known as dirt ramming, Akhavan’s sculpture offers a moment of quiet reflection, referencing artworks destroyed in recent wars. The colossal piece holds a sense of shame, inviting visitors to consider human capacity at its best and its worst. 

Variations on a Ghost has been transforming throughout the show, too – as the soil has dried, the statue has morphed from loamy brown to a crusted grey, filling the space with new scents.

To further gain a sense of scale, visitors are able to view the piece from the floor above. Akhavan has recreated only the feet of this ancient sculpture; the empty space above suggests at what once was.

Also exploring the capacity for violence, Janice Kerbel’s Fight records the physical actions of choreographed fights through text on campaign posters. That these posters are presented outside the gallery in an unassuming side street furthers Kerbel’s exploration of how fights can start and end regardless of context. Typical words such as ‘PUNCH’ overlap with unusual ones like ‘straddle’, becoming illegible and evoking ideas of graffiti and anti-social behaviour.

While some works at Bluecoat explore destruction, other artists explore our conscience for existence, such as with Suki Seokyeong Kang’s Land Sand Strand (main image). Based on Korean musical notation, Seokyeong Kang’s work transforms the gallery space into a grid, incorporating traditional Korean mats (hwamunseok), which are interpreted as the minimum amount of space provided for each person in society. Collectively, the pieces create an interesting dichotomy, feeling almost chaotic yet assured. Despite there being space to walk between these static pieces, there’s a sense of energy, perhaps furthered by seemingly arbitrary audio elements. 

Further exploring space, Silke Otto-Knapp’s painting is installed around gallery four’s perimeter, leaving the centre of the room vacant. The painting concentrates on the physicality of dance, neglecting background details and distinguished characters. There is a suggestion of togetherness through the universality of dance, of a language transcending cultures. This large open space, coupled with an attention on movement, almost invites visitors to make use of the space and dance.

The collective artworks at Bluecoat seem to suggest that if we are searching for a beautiful world, it may not necessarily be a physical place susceptible to damage; beauty really lies in what we can achieve when we come together.

Callan Waldron-Hall is a Liverpool-based writer studying an MA in Poetry at Manchester Metropolitan University.

Beautiful world, where are you? continues at the Bluecoat until 28 October.

Published 07.10.2018 by Sinead Nunes in Reviews

470 words