First ‘outside’ chapter of Liverpool Biennial unveiled

Linder, Bower of Bliss at Liverpool ONE. Photography: Mark McNulty

LIVERPOOL Biennial has unveiled the first ‘outside’ chapter of the 11th edition The Stomach and the Port, ahead of the public opening on 20 March, along with announcing an extension to the Biennial’s duration at most venues to 27 June 2021 and others to August and September.

To celebrate Liverpool’s architecture and public spaces, a new series of outdoor sculptures and installations is now waiting be discovered at strategic sites across the city’s centre. Commissions 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 and Jorgge Menna Barreto’s mural Mauvais Alphabet (2021) on the side of Bluecoat.

Presiding over the city, Larry Achiampong’s Pan African For the Relic Travellers’ Alliance can be found across ten locations, including St. George’s Hall, St. John’s Gardens, Central Library, Exchange Flags, Liverpool Parish Church, Martin Luther King Jr. Building, Edmund Gardener Vessel, Cunard Building, St. Luke’s Church and Liverpool ONE.

Online, three sonic and digital commissions are available to experience on the new Biennial Portal www.liverpoolbiennial2021.com, comprising 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), a digital experiment in reimagining the future of curating in the light of Artificial Intelligence by artists UBERMORGEN, digital humanist Leonardo Impett and curator Joasia Krysa; and as part of the Learning Programme, a performative series of pre-recorded and live streamed workshops by KeKeÇa Body Percussion Ensemble which invite schools and wider audiences to participate, using their own bodies as percussive instruments.

The Biennial Online Portal underpins the physical festival, providing a dedicated platform to feature the practices of each of the artists taking part, along with a free and evolving public programme of events and learning resources.

The public programme Processes of Fermentation investigates the three curatorial entry points of the Biennial – Stomach, Porosity and Kinship – through an inspiring line-up of live performances and free events. These include the artist-hosted Liquid Club held each month to explore the sound listening and aural practices across the Biennial, featuring Larry Achiampong (18 March), Ayesha Hameed (15 April), Xaviera Simmons (20 May), and Daniel Steegmann Mangrané (17 June); the Refracted Body, a programme of 17 films curated by Margarida Mendes; Art Against the World, a 6-part podcast series co-produced with the University of Liverpool; along with a one-off panel discussion with BBC Radio 3’s Free Thinking (6 April). A range of artist talks, curatorial videos, artist-led discussions and workshops, to be announced in due course, will also contribute to the rich and engaging multimedia content, enabling audiences around the world to enjoy the Biennial remotely.

For families, schools and the wider community, the Biennial’s Learning Programme is available in the classroom and at home through a vibrant selection of online and physical resources, including artist-led workshops The Stomach in the Studio for young adults, featuring Erick Beltrán (21 April) and Teresa Solar (19 May), along with community-based workshops The Stomach in the City, featuring Stomach with Rule of Threes (7 April), Porosity with The Proud Trust (5 May) and Kinship with Phosphorous Theatre (2 June). Other highlights include the Kinship Activity Pack of things to do, make, learn and read for young children; and a set of online curriculum-based resources for teachers and educators. Bespoke activities have been devised with Liverpool charity Kinship Carers using the Feldenkrais Method of exercise, and with not-for-profit community arts company Rule of Threes, creating a pack of recipes, local produce and a food-focused Zine.

In celebration of the Biennial’s opening, new limited-edition prints by Liverpool Biennial 2021 artists Jadé Fadojutimi and Teresa Solar have been released for online sale. The proceeds from each sale directly supports the programming of Liverpool Biennial. The publication The Stomach and the Port, featuring essays by the artists and written narratives by Manuela Moscoso and Keyna Eleison, Co-Director of Museum of Modern Art, Rio de Janeiro, is available to buy online.

New Commissions for April

From 23 April, Liverpool Biennial 2021 will reveal 3 new commissions, including Superposition (2021) by Erick Beltrán, whose sound pieces and corresponding graphical drawings around his research into Latino American Cumbia music will be presented in a fleet of ComCab taxis travelling around Liverpool’s city centre. Beltrán sees the body move through ripples and rhythms as a way of reflecting on different forms of being and coming together beyond the conventional understanding of the individual.

Rashid Johnson, Stacked Heads at Canning Dock Quayside. Photograph by Mark McNulty

Luisa Ungar offers members of the public a personal engagement with experts in clairvoyance through a series of weekly phone calls available on demand. Following the caller’s inquiries, each conversation might offer constellations that connect to Liverpool’s history as a contact point for global trade, through the interpretation of various types of material. Inspired by reports of contagion, hygienisation and witch-hunting in the city A Regurgitation is a Song is a Spell (Consultations to recreate the colonial disease) (2021) is based on research of official records, rumour and historical gossip.

Daniel Steegmann Mangrané’s La Pensée Férale (2021) will be displayed at Crown Street Park, featuring a replica of a Pau Rei, a native tree of the Brazilian Mata Atlántica, embedded with the eye of an Indian pariah dog from Bangladesh, and surrounded by newly planted Fagus Purpurea Pendula trees. La Pensée Férale raises questions about subjectivity as a cultural construction as well as our attitude towards the environment, reinforcing that nature is not without perception or feeling.

Completing the Biennial Programme

Later in the Spring, to align with Government guidelines, the second ‘inside’ chapter will launch the full festival of exhibitions and events hosted by key venues throughout Liverpool. In order to present the Biennial to the widest possible audience, exhibitions at the majority of partner venues have been extended until 27 June. Open Eye will remain open until 6 June and Tate Liverpool until 20 June. FACT continues until 29 August and Bluecoat until 5 September.

Manuela Moscoso, Curator of Liverpool Biennial 2021, said: “We are profoundly grateful to each of the 50 artists taking part in this year’s biennial for their support in such uncertain and changing times. Developed over several years, The Stomach and the Port hinges on two key ideas of exchange and connection, set against the maritime history of Liverpool. The first ‘outside’ chapter presents works that connect bodies and experiences to key places, past and present, speaking of the movement of humans across the sea and proposing new understandings of the relationships between the body and nature. With the opening of the second ‘inside’ chapter of exhibitions later in Spring, the Biennial in all its entirety will present a re-calibration of the senses and a catalyst for change and healing, following the universal shifts we have all experienced in this past year.”

Dr. Samantha Lackey, Interim Director, Liverpool Biennial, said: “We are delighted to be opening The Stomach and the Port on 20 March as the UK’s first major contemporary arts festival to emerge since lockdown. We are also hugely grateful to our partners and all the participating artists, for their support in enabling an extension of the Biennial into the summer, ensuring that as many people as possible will experience the full festival. In such challenging times, none of this would have been possible without the vision of our curator Manuela Moscoso, the work of our team, the participation of our artists and the support of the city of Liverpool and our funders.”

The Stomach and the Port (20 March to 27 June)

The Stomach and the Port is curated by Manuela Moscoso and will showcase the work of 50 leading, and emerging, artists and collectives from 30 countries around the world, including 47 new commissions. Exploring concepts of the body, Liverpool Biennial draws on non-Western thinking where the body is seen as fluid, being continuously shaped by, and actively shaping its environment. The port city of Liverpool, and its maritime history as a point of global contact and circulation, provides the perfect ecosystem for this Biennial to imagine different forms of being human and explore what bodies have the potential to be.

The artists’ practices will be gathered under 3 entry points – Stomach, Porosity and Kinship –  to present different ways of thinking about and linking the artworks across the Biennial. The stomach is the bodily organ through which we engage with and digest the world; porosity is the ability of the skin to absorb or allow things to pass through; and kinship revisits the bonds and relationships which connect us to our families, the community and beyond, to include the wider world of nature and technology.