Liverpool Biennial indoor exhibitions and outdoor works
The Tobacco Warehouse has been turned into a temporary gallery as part of this summer’s Liverpool Biennial.
The waterfront structure, the largest brick-built warehouse in the world, is acting as a festival hub as well as staging work by six international artists who are taking part in the 12th edition of the giant contemporary art event.
This year’s Biennial, running from June 10 to September 17, is titled uMonya: The Sacred Return of Lost Things and the Tobacco Warehouse joins a number of other venues across the city including Tate Liverpool, FACT, Bluecoat, Open Eye Gallery, Victoria Gallery & Museum, World Museum and the Cotton Exchange.
Each venue sees work group together under and overarching theme.
There are also outdoor works in St John’s Gardens, Liverpool ONE, Princes Dock, Stanley Dock and St Nicholas Church Gardens.
And a public programme of free events and performances takes place throughout the 14-week Biennial – the UK’s largest free festival of contemporary visual art.
uMoya: The Sacred Return of Lost Things is curated by Khanyisile Mbongwa. It ‘addresses the history and temperament of the city of Liverpool and is a call for ancestral and indigenous forms of knowledge, wisdom and healing. In the isiZulu language, uMoya means spirit, breath, air, climate and wind.’
Above: Torkwase Dyson's Liquid a Place at Tate Liverpool. Top: Shannon Alonzo putting the finishing touches to her site-specific mural Mangroves at the Cotton Exchange.
Biennial director Dr Samantha Lackey says: “I believe uMoya: The Sacred Return of Lost Things’ will be a beautiful and deeply felt festival across the city - that will both connect to Liverpool’s colonial past but also uncover possibilities for repair, healing and joy in its future.
“Khanyisile Mbongwa has brought together perspectives, thinking - and importantly - feeling, from across the globe which will help us see the world we are living in today from different viewpoints.
“We look forward to welcoming regional, national and international visitors to the festival and are excited to expand our reach across the city centre this year, bringing Liverpool Biennial to the North Docks.”
Here is what you can see at the various festival venues:
The visual artist and poet presents a series of suspended abstract forms and intricate sculptures (above) which are grouped together to create a complex installation.
It threads together a range of source imagery including historical African sculptures, abstracted landscapes and compositions inspired by engravings and paintings.
Albert Ibokwe Khoza
Khoza’s live offering The Black Circus of the Republic of Bantu, presented for the first time as an installation, exposes the violence and shameful legacy of ethnological exhibitions – such as human zoos – that were popular in Western society between the 1870s and 1960s.
Drawing on the artist’s interest in hidden histories and archival material, this reimagining of her installation Chorus of Soil uses soil and seeds to map and 18th Century plan of the Brooks slave ship.
Between 1782 and 1804, the Brooks departed from Liverpool to the West coast of Africa, carrying more than 5,000 enslaved people to plantations in the Caribbean.
The installation is accompanied by a new sound work incorporating the voices of local people reciting m NourbeSe Philip’s 2008 poem Zong.
Isa do Rosário
The Biennial marks the first time that do Rosário’s large scale textile pieces (below) are being exhibited outside Brazil.
The artist creates textile works led by a spiritual conversation with Orixás, an African religion that developed in Brazil during the 19th Century. Orixás are believed to be ancestors who have been deified and who represent the forces of nature.
Manchot’s new film project, STEPHEN, blurs the lines between fact and fiction to examine addiction and recovery.
The Biennial commission has been created with a mixed cast of professional actors and local people from the recovery community.
Hamzi’s painting Parasite emerges from her examination, deconstruction and reconstruction of botanic shapes, creating associations with the human body, femininity and sexuality.
Edgar Calel's work Ru k’ox k’ob’el jun ojer eternab’el (The Echo of an Ancient Form of Knowledge) - above - presents stones as sacred sites of ritual adored with fruit and vegetables placed during a private ritual during the exhibition installation.
Francis Offman proposes a meditation on the Rwandan genocide, an intimate reflection on how to convey history’s violent narrative through objects of personal connection.
Fatima Rodrigo Gonzales (below) presents several works from her Holograms series alongside a newly commissioned textile work Contradanza. Both explore how fashion photography often copies and extracts from aesthetics and traditional dress of indigenous people and cultures for commercial purposes.
Gala Porras-Kim’s work questions the museum storage system, investigating institutional frameworks and the ethics of keeping and caring for objects.
Guadeloupe Maravilla’s 2019 Disease Thrower series are autobiographical constructions which are at once sculptures, shrines, wearable headdresses and healing instruments, reflecting on the artist’s own experiences as an undocumented migrant and cancer survivor.
Shannon Alonzo (below) aims to create a connection, or draw a thread, between past and present. She etches, stitches, draws and moulds as a way of making the rich archive of the Caribbean community more tangible.
Isa do Rosário is led by a spiritual conversation with Orixás, believed to be ancestors who have been deified and who represent the forces of nature, and the large and intricate textile work exhibited here emerges directly from this connection and conversation.
Between the Two My Heart is Balanced by Lubaina Himid is a reimagining of French artist James Tissot’s 1877 painting Portsmouth Dockyard. Her work subverts the artistic canon, centralising two Black female figures and using painting as a place to imagine something other than pain.
Torkwase Dyson’s abstract work Liquid a Place (below) is being staged in the Wolfson Gallery and is composed of three striking structural objects which both appear as static and fluid simultaneously.
Nolan Oswald Dennis’ No conciliation is possible (working diagram) is the next in a series of installations consisting of map-like wall diagrams and a shifting selection of drawings and objects which amplify the diagrams’ contents.
And in Mumbo Jumbo and The Committee, Pamela Phatsimo Sunstrum explores the conflicting demands faced by the artist in pursuit of home and wholeness – the intrinsic expectations of family and community, with the demands and limitations imposed by whiteness.
Kazeem-Kamiński presents a new multi-screen video work and soundscape building on her 2022 work Respire.
The artist has invited members of local Black communities to participate in the film and soundscape, recorded in Liverpool and created in collaboration with sound-artist Bassano Bonelli Bassano.
The piece is dedicated to imagining spaces for Black breath and breathing to expand and thrive.
Piéron’s work deals with the uncertainty of life, death and immunity.
His practice reappropriates and transfigures the medical environments and materials that surrounds him – hospital sheets and gowns, IV drips and waiting room furniture – to create something new, joyful and full of life.
K’idein yei jeene (you’re doing such a good job) samples words from the Lingit language which is spoken by the indigenous peoples of the Pacific North West coast of North America, and the video work centres the love, safety and connection experienced and shared within these communities.
Chan’s Hothouse is an installation and project space which questions the relationship between climates and cultures, and the influence of heat and humidity on our bodies and minds.
For the Biennial he engages with artworks and artefacts from the Global Cultures collections of World Museum to produce a new series of videos and installation.
Kabir presents her first ever retrospective as part of the Biennial.
Utterances: Our vessels for the stories, unspoken. Subaqueous violence. Sea. Ocean… encompasses woven text, textiles, sound, video and performance to convey and visualise concepts concerning the cultural politics of cloth, its associated labour and networks of extraction.
Open Eye Gallery
Aguachiero’s photographic installation considers the ongoing extraction of large quantities of raw or natural materials like oil, timber, sealife and other essential natural resources from the artist’s home country of Mozambique and its devastating impacts.
Gambo employs walking as an artistic practice, using movement as a mediative and creative process from which to weave a visual story.
Nest-works and Wander-lines and Instruments of Air explore the origins of language, embodied and multisensory communication and speculative storytelling.
Suubi’s Samba Gown, originally devised as a performance piece, imagines and re-enacts the Ugandan independence ceremony of 1962 as a wedding ceremony.
Comprised of plastic waste, it also comments on plastic pollution as one of the major aftermaths of colonialism as Uganda receives thousands of tonnes of waste from wealthy countries each year.
Victoria Gallery & Museum
Jardim, Portuguese for garden, is a large scale interactive installation consisting of hundreds of bells which invites people to follow a path through the work, encouraging active participation through the ringing of the bells.
By completing this irresistible action we sound the alarm and reveal our presence and location.
Watkiss’ work forms what she calls ‘memory stories’ – visual representations into her research of the African Caribbean diaspora mapped on to life size figures.
Her work traces African ancestral traditions which survived the Transatlantic crossing; the stories, rituals and customs which have become a part of Caribbean culture.
The artist’s intricate drawings, Future Spaces Replicate Earlier Spaces, imagine objects created from ancient vessels, combined to create new forms and functions.
SMASH It is a digital amalgamation of images, videos, sound and text where archival footage from the Smithsonian Institute collides with found footage and media samples from the artist’s collection.
Porres-Kim’s Roll Call is an audio piece resurrecting the names of those who have passed and been reincarnated into objects now stored in museum collections.
Mangroves, the artist’s site-specific mural of charcoal and paint, explores the Caribbean Carnival’s relationship to space; claimed and embodied, geographical and ideological.
Mangroves are an enmeshed root system living on the fringes of land and sea in coastal, tropical climes.
In Songs to Earth, Songs to Seeds, Rahaa portrays the often invisible and inaccessible process of rice cultivation in the paddy lands of Mazandaran, Northern, Iran.
The almost year-long process is an intergenerational tradition with knowledge passed down for nearly a century through the artist’s family.
Gqunta is interested in histories of displacement and how colonialism, slavery and apartheid shape and inform displacement.
Sleeping Pools – Brewing is an illuminated bedframe filled with a petrol-like substance. The use of petrol lies in the sense of discomfort it creates, pervasive and unsettling.
Princes Dock – Eleng Luluan
A monumental sculpture inspired by the artist’s memories of growing up in the indigenous Kucapungane community a Rukai aboriginal village in the mountains of southern Taiwan.
Ali sa be sa be depicts the legend of the founder of Rukai, believed to have been born from a pottery jar protected by two snakes.
Stanley Dock – Brook Andrew
Andrew presents a new large-scale neon work, located at Stanley Dock.
Combining languages including Irish Gaelic, isiZulu, Wiradjuri, Urdu, Mandarin and Welsh, the commission symbolises the cultural and historical linguistic diversity of Merseyside across the Liverpool skyline.
St John’s Gardens – Nicholas Galantin
Galatin presents Threat Return, a gathering of overturned cast bronze handwoven baskets, modified to resemble burglary masks.
The seven bronze sculptures sit on concrete plinths, referencing busts and monuments which surround the piece within St John’s Gardens and the surrounding museums and galleries, many of which celebrate men and families who made their wealth in the shipping or merchant trades.
Liverpool ONE – Rudy Loewe
Loewe presents a new large scale installation based on the artist’s painting February 1970, Trinidad #1 which depicts Moko jumbie (a stilt walker) and other Carnival mas players coming to the aid of people at the moment of Black Power revolution in Trinidad and Tobago.
The Reckoning transports these spirits to the site of the Old Dock where they confront Britain’s colonial legacy and its contemporary reverberations.
St Nicholas Church Gardens – Ranti Bam
The churchyard is the burial place of Abell, Liverpool’s first recorded Black resident and former slave.
Bam’s work – seven new sculptures from her Ifa series - offers a meeting point for visitors to gather in meditation, contemplation and discourse.
Liverpool Biennial runs from June 10 to September 17. For the full details of all the works, artists, events and opening times of venues, visit the Biennial website HERE
Images: Julien Creuzet and Isa do Rosário at the Tobacco Warehouse courtesy of Liverpool Biennial. By Mark McNulty.
All other images by Catherine Jones