Help! I Need Some Body: Looking for Last Year’s Liverpool Biennial

Slightly less than a year ago the 9th Liverpool Biennial opened and one of its venues – Tate Liverpool – was not only populated by newly commissioned contemporary artworks, but also the figures of Classical sculptures. Tomorrow I will be visiting Liverpool for the weekend and I will be posting about my search not only for any remnants of these ancient bodies and forms at the Tate, but also for traces (if any) of last year’s biennial that remain in the city.

To get us started, here is the description of the 2016 Tate Liverpool exhibition, including a list of the contemporary works that were installed to be in dialogue with the classical sculptures:

After walking through a portal in Tate Liverpool’s first-floor galleries, visitors encounter classical sculptures alongside newly commissioned artworks. The artists have imagined a world where artists from Ancient Greece and contemporary times have collaborated, merging the past, present and future into a single fiction just as the city’s architects did when they designed Liverpool’s neoclassical buildings in the 1800s.

The Ince Blundell objects, borrowed from National Museums Liverpool’s antiquities collections for this episode, include a series of classical sculptures, vases, busts and reliefs bought by art collector Henry Blundell in the early 1800s. Many of the sculptures were subject to inaccurate restoration: female heads appear fixed to male bodies, a toe is stuck to the wrong foot, and classical fragments are combined with additions made by eighteenth-century restorers to make new figures, an accepted practice at that time.

Alongside Blundell’s figures and fragments, Koenraad Dedobbeleer has made a series of display structures to support the classical sculptures in their new context. Andreas Angelidakis’s new film looks at Ancient Greek vases, and how they were used to spread news and myth, comparing this dissemination to the internet. Jumana Manna’s work draws parallels between Athens and Jerusalem to relate how their stories both contributed to the West’s self-construction, which in turn mirrored and partially shaped the economy and politics of the Middle East. Betty Woodman’s mural depicts a domestic scene, complete with three-dimensional ceramic objects.

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