Liverpool Biennial 2021 – The Stomach and the Port

Creative Tourist
Liverpool Biennial 2021 – The Stomach and the Port
Ebony G. Patterson, ...a pale horse weeps in silence...for those who bear/bare witness, 2018. Courtesy the artist and Monique Meloche Gallery, Chicago

Liverpool Biennial 2021, 20 March–6 June 2021, free entry - Visit now

Note: The 11th edition of Liverpool Biennial will open the first ‘outside’ chapter of The Stomach and the Port on 20 March 2021, starting with a major new series of outdoor sculpture, sonic and digital commissions by nine different artists, alongside the new Biennial Online Portal. 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 late Spring.

After several false starts (needless to say because of Covid) the 11th edition of Liverpool Biennial – the UK’s oldest and largest festival of contemporary visual art – is finally here. As has become tradition, the 12-week event will unfold throughout the city; in galleries, outdoor public spaces, and unusual and iconic buildings, this year including the grand Grade II listed Lewis’s department store. These venues will play host to new and existing work by more than 50 leading and emerging artists, including Judy Chicago, Frieze Artist Award winner Alberta Whittle, Liverpool-born artist Linder, Rashid Johnson and Jenna Sutela.

Titled ‘The Stomach and the Port’, the 2021 festival departs from the humblest, though by no means simplest, of places; the body. Rather than a self-contained, self-sufficient unit, the individual is re-conceived as a fluid entity without limits, that continually shapes and is shaped by its environment, existing within a wider web of interdependencies. The curatorial approach is influenced by non-Western ways of thinking and will also be used to explore Liverpool’s complex history as an international port city, which has long provided a point of global contact and circulation. Much of the programme has been reshaped by the turmoil and calls for social justice of the last year, asserting the need to rebuild our world through decolonising practices and ideas of kinship and co-dependence.

Among the new commissions, we’ll first be heading to watch Neo Muyanga’s video installation A Maze in Grace, which responds to the hymn, ‘Amazing Grace’, written by the slaveowner turned abolitionist John Newton, who had connections to Liverpool and sailed on slave ships from its port. The artist will show alongside 15 others at the Lewis’s building, around the corner from FACT, where an immersive environment created by Black Obsidian Sound will use film, light, sound, sculpture and archival images to reflect on the ways in which marginalised groups have developed methods of coming together against a background of repression and discrimination in the UK. Showing at Tate Liverpool, Ebony G. Patterson’s embellished textile works will offer a meditation upon historical representations of marginalised bodies, and capturing, mourning and glorifying the passing of their lives.

Many other highlights look set to come from artists including Alice Channer, Camille Henrot, and Lamin Fofana among others; while works sited at Exchange Flags, Canning Docks, Crown Street Park and Liverpool ONE will provide a chance for audiences to experience the festival outdoors. A public programme of performances and events will be announced closer to the time, to ensure safest Covid procedures.

Taking the digestive functions of the stomach and porosity of skin as metaphors for a wider re-examination of the world, this latest edition of the Biennial looks set to offer a perhaps more nuanced and conceptually-expansive version of the festival than we’ve grown used to.

Note: “Liverpool Biennial is planning an inspiring onsite and accompanying online programme for its 11th edition, The Stomach and the Port (20 March to 6 June 2021). This includes a series of new outdoor sculptures and installations by six artists in locations across the city, as well as exhibitions in nine different venues, and a new digital channel. In view of the recent national lockdown, we are working with partners to explore scenarios which enable us to deliver an exciting Biennial this year, which is safe and uplifting for all. We look forward to providing updates in future weeks.”

Liverpool Biennial 2021

20 March–6 June 2021
Free entry