Liverpool Biennial – A brief reflection

With just two days left to catch the Liverpool Biennial 2021, our Project Manager Alessandra Cianetti shares five works that captured her imagination during a day trip to the wonders of “The Stomach and the Port”.

Three years in the making due to the Covid19 pandemic, this edition of the Liverpool Biennial feels like a much-needed communal effort to re-energise and re-connect the city’s spaces and public.

The clear and wise touch of curator Manuela Moscoso led us across the venues and streets of Liverpool with  the original questions of her curatorial vision unfolding through the incredible richness of works by international artists. Questions such as “What is a body?” “What does it mean to be human” and “What could humans be to one another?” As she mentions in her essay, the title of the Biennial draws from an understanding of bodies as fluid, as organisms that are interdependent, porous, and in constant relation with their environments that simultaneously shape them and are shaped by them.

With this intriguing starting point, we navigated these dialogues among artworks, spaces and the city, and decided to share this brief selection:

Ithell Colquhoun at Tate Liverpool
(1906 - 1988, Assam, India)

Earth Process (1940)

As an artist, writer, poet and occultist who exhibited with the British Surrealist in the 1930s, Ithell Colquhoun’s works on paper explore nature’s four essential elements: earth, air, fire, and water. Her work, based on the surrealist ideas of automatism – attempting to draw letting the unconscious mind take over – represents natural forms as part of the cycles of life, transformation, and change, always looking at the magical power of women as essentially connected to the earth and its renewal.

The interconnections between Colquhoun’s work and how it inspired contemporary women artists such as Linder and Judy Chicago make this space at Tate Liverpool even more magical. 



Ebony G. Patterson at Tate Liverpool
(b. 1981, Kingston, Jamaica)

…fraught…for those who bear/bare witness (2018) & …when the cry takes root… (2021)

It is impossible not to be grabbed by Patterson’s powerful installation. Your eyes gravitate towards them, attracted by their powerful use of beauty as a tool to talk about violence.

Patterson employs “opulent, hand-embellished surfaces and brightly coloured patterns to entice viewers to bear witness to social injustices.” The installations’ lavishness with their unexpectedly emerging half-bodies and headless torsos, ask for our whole attention and to transform our gaze into a conscious act of engagement with her reflections and representations of marginalised bodies to both mourn and celebrate these lives. Not to be missed! 


Luo Jr-Shin at Lewis’s Building
(b. 1984, Miaoli, Taiwan)

Like a filter matters passed through you and became a part of you (2021)

This immersive work created by Luo Jr-Shin for the space of the Lewis’s Building, transports us to a nightclub toilet complete with its sticky floors and coloured lights. The artist, drawing from previous works, creates a set-like environment of this ambiguous site that is the toilet. Public and private, often gendered, toilets are also sites for conversations, spontaneous meetings, and exchanges to which the artist successfully draws our attention upon. A perfect occasion to give more thoughts to a space we mindlessly use on a daily basis.

Jes Fan at Lewis’s Building (b.1990, Canada/Hong Kong /USA)

Form A = Network (For Staying Low to the Ground) (2021) Form B = Network (For Survival) (2021) Form C = Network (For Dispersal) (2021)

In this work Fan uses laboratory equipment made of borosilicate glass and re-purposes them to create a light, transparent structure of tubes that hosts life. The sculpture is an incubator for black mould representing both a “racialised fear of contamination and a sign of growth”. In this piece the artist sensitively shows us the delicate relationship of coexistence and care for what is not human. Definitely one of my favourite pieces in the show.

Zheng Bo at FACT
(b.1974, Bejing, China)

Pteridophilia 1 – 5 (2016-2021)

I conclude this selection with Pteridophilia, a work that sits in my mind in a position of ambiguity between the appreciation of its powerfully sensual visuals, and its uncomfortable crossing of the line of what ‘consent’ is in humans’ relations with nature. This new commission is the fifth of Zheng Bo’s series in which he draws from queer ecologies to push the boundaries of what intimacy and love can mean when we incorporate the natural world. This is a piece that keeps generating questions after you have long left the building, worth your time and engagement.  

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