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liverpool biennial 04 - carl micahel von hausswolff 'spiral driveway'
liverpool biennial 04
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The artworld gathers round the Mersey.

It may not have the weather, the glamour or the picture-postcard setting of more established Biennials such as Venice but, still only in its third incarnation, the Liverpool Biennial is already an art event thatís put itself on the map.

Non-stop Abba, giant inflating flowers, Roy Rogers on his horse walking through the corridors of the Adelphi Hotel, headbanging to Beethoven and a costumed Meatloaf karaoke are just some of the delights in this yearís line-up.

Divided into four main strands, the Biennialís central focus is the International, featuring 40 artists from around the globe who have each responded to the location in some way.

Just as Liverpool has The Beatles, Sweden has its own pop legends in the form of Abba. Peter Johanssonís installation, Musique Royale, comments on both, as well as Swedish culture in general, by plonking a prefab-style house, painted inside and out in shiny red paint, on the grass by the pier head. Inside, Dancing Queen plays out through speakers, 24 hours a day.

Meanwhile, Canadian Germaine Koh takes communication and identity as her themes with two interactive works. Relay merges Morse code with its contemporary equivalent, text messaging, while Marks explores what it means to stamp someoneís identity onto your body.


Swan Upping by Sarah Gilder & Musique Royale by Peter Johansson

The Independents strand is the artworld equivalent of a festival fringe. This year itís located around Jamaica Street and Parliament Street, and itís here youíll find the edgier, artist-run exhibitions and events. Jamaica Street is also where Bloomberg New Contemporaries is based, with the pick of this yearís new and recent graduates.

On the opening night, New Contemporary Lali Chetwyndís orchestrated karaoke performance of Meatloafís Bat Out Of Hell came complete with performers prancing around in convincing giant furry bat heads and bin-liner wings, and had the audience screaming for more.

And thereís plenty of painting to see too. At the Walker Art Gallery, the John Moores painting competition, with a jury including Gavin Turk and Jarvis Cocker, is showcasing paintings by over 50 finalists, alongside this yearís winner, Alexis Harding.

Even The Stuckists have been invited. Co-founder Bill Lewis may not approve of all the conceptual art on show, but the fact is that the Walker has also given them their first major public exhibition as part of the Biennial. Which demonstrates that what can or canít be art, and what is seen as good or bad art, will always be up for debate.


Helen Sumpter 24 September 04
The Liverpool Biennial is at galleries and other locations throughout the city until 28 November 04.
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