Text by Jack Welsh
The opening weekend of the 2012 Liverpool Biennial included a significant new addition to the already burgeoning programme of events and exhibitions. CAVE Art Fair was an ambitious new project that presented work by 45 unrepresented artists from across the UK. Organised by Liverpool based artists Kevin Hunt and Flis Mitchell, CAVE challenged the traditional art fair model by acting as facilitator between unrepresented artists and the public, taking no commission on sales. CAVE presented a confidently curated display of newly commissioned and recent painting, video, sculptural and installation works. Rachel Maclean’s The Lion and The Unicorn (2012) was a particularly striking video work in a vivacious front space. There were also a handful of performative encounters occurring throughout the three days for a small fee, such as Oliver Braid’s one-hour performance presentation Sincerity Shoe (2012).
Despite displaying a large volume of work within a relatively small space, CAVE never felt cramped. Interesting dialogues often emerged between different works, providing a fluid and engaging path around the space. Although only open for a short period, CAVE felt like a significant development. It is a brave and exciting artist led project that offers substance while also possessing rich potential for the future. The next edition of CAVE will be highly anticipated.
As official partners of the Biennial for the first time, The Royal Standard are exploring the overall festival theme of hospitality in Service Provider. Relinquishing control of its gallery space and website to five invited artist groups, The Royal Standard are only present in a controlled entrance foyer space that is also an observation room. Invited groups must use the three divided gallery spaces to provide a service during their tenure. The first incumbents are Tether, who present This is it, a project comprising of an installation, active studio space and a series of public events within the gallery. All activities are concerned with representations of history through a dual focus on America and recognition of destruction, prominent in the red, white and blue banners hanging outside of the building. Each hand-stitched banner was adorned with an American image within a single letter but read in pairs.
The multitude of relationships and power structures that will occur between the different actors who will occupy the gallery may prove to be difficult to articulate at times. The project recognises this through its core format of performance and events as opposed to an exhibition. As observers within their own space, how will The Royal Standard decipher these experiences as well as those of the public during this process? It is a project that, if successful, has the potential to provide an in depth critique of the notion of hospitality at an artist led level. Service Provider will require revisiting over the next couple of months.
Service Provider at The Royal Standard 15 September – 25 November 2012
CAVE Art Fair ran from 13 – 16 September 2012
Liverpool Biennial 15 September – 25 November 2012
Jack Welsh is a Liverpool-based artist, writer and arts administrator.