Ok; we’ll admit that navigating as large, multi-faceted and action-packed a festival as Liverpool Biennial in just a weekend may sound like a challenge… But it can be done. Here we’ve put together our own specially-crafted itinerary to help you get the most out of a whistle-stop visit. If you’re lucky (or organised) enough to be able to coincide with the Opening, be sure to catch some of the one-off performances taking place on the 14 & 15 July. For a more in-depth look at what this year’s 10th anniversary edition – poetically titled Beautiful world, where are you? – has to offer, check out our full festival guide and top five highlights here.
Here are our picks
Day one… With a busy 48 hours ahead, we suggest arriving into Liverpool early – before 10am – with enough time to nip into one of the city’s many unbeatable breakfast spots or coffee shops to kick-start the day. With Lime Street train station behind you, cross over the road to St. George’s Hall where a series of bold video installations, presented in the atmospheric setting of the building’s former prison cells and courtroom, will provide a solid introduction to the notably political flavour of this year’s festival.
Emerging back out into the light, take a two-minute walk over to The Playhouse Theatre in Williamson Square; temporary home to three new commissions occupying the stage, bars and rehearsal studios that respond to the venue’s theatrical setting and city’s musical history. Next, head down to Liverpool Waterfront, stopping off to see Holly Hendry’s takeover of Exchange Flags along the way (if you skipped breakie, we recommend the nearby PANNA or Fazenda for an early lunch).
Arriving at Mann Island, nip into RIBA North where Mae-ling Lokkopresents an installation made of agrowaste-fed mushrooms. Then head into Open Eye Gallery, which hosts a captivating film installationby Madiha Aijaz that explores the public libraries of Karachi (Pakistan) against the backdrop of the city’s changing landscape; and a series of photographs presented by George Osodi that challenge the inaccurate portrayal of Nigeria’s rulers during the early days of British colonialism. The long-lasting cultural trauma and social impact inflicted by European colonialism resurfaces as the central theme around the corner at Tate Liverpool, where a group of artists (largely of indigenous heritage) respond to the troubled complexities of race, nation and culture in settler societies. Make sure to catch Haegue Yang’s hybrid, multi-sensory, environment in the downstairs Wolfson Gallery as you leave.
If you didn’t manage to grab a bite before, you’ll want food now. Spare some time to stop at Bluecoat’s excellent café and, weather permitting, enjoy a sandwich whilst listening to Shannon Ebner’s sound piece, presented outdoors in the open courtyard. Heading in, you’ll first encounter Abbas Akhavan’s monumental sculpture, Variations on Ghost in the Vide gallery, which references the many artworks destroyed by ISIS over the last decade; followed by a series of new commissions by artists including Ryan Gander and Melanie Smith. Keep your eyes peeled for Janice Kerbel’s silk screen posters on your way out.
Beautiful world, where are you? at Blackburne House, 14 July–28 October 2018, free entry - Visit now
By this point, we’re guessing you’ll be ready to wind-down. Rather than making a bee-line for the pub however, instead we suggest a free 30-minute facial as part of Taus Makhacheva and Alexander Kutovoi’s ‘art spa’ installation at Blackburne House. Leave time to also see Rehana Zaman’s new film, How Does an Invisible Boy Disappear, which draws on Liverpool’s marginalised histories, explored in collaboration with a group of young women from the city.
Maray, 91 Bold Street, Liverpool, L1 4HF - Visit now
Bring the day to a close with dinner. For a semi ‘up-market’ treat, it’s got to be Maray (which also serves exceptional cocktails) or opt for the slightly more budget friendly Penn Factory. For further evening recommendations, check out our guides to Liverpool’s best vegetarian food, restaurants, casual dining, pubs, music venues and hotels.
LEAF on Bold Street, 65-67 Bold Street, Liverpool, Merseyside, L1 4EZ - Visit now
Day two… Once again, start the day with a solid breakfast at LEAF on Bold Street before heading up the road and around the corner to FACT, where Three Movements – a brand-new three-channel video installation by the renowned grandmother of French New Wave cinema, Agnès Varda – offers a moving reflection on temporality and the rhythm of human life. From here, climb the stairs to the upper level gallery to watch a short artist film will provide a nice introduction to the next stop on our tour: Mohamed Bourouissa’s Resilience Garden in Toxteth.
Beautiful world, where are you? at Great George Street, 14 July–28 October 2018, free entry - Visit now
You might want to consider taking the 75, 80 or 80A bus from Renshaw Street to the garden; a project developed in collaboration between Bourouissa and the local community, which explores the central need we all have for a little more peace and tranquillity in our lives. If you decide to walk or cycle (it’s about 15 minutes out), make sure you go via Great George Street where you’ll come across The List, which gathers up-to-date information relating to the deaths of the more than 34,000 refugees and migrants who have lost their lives within or on the boarders of Europe since 1993.
Once you’re back in the city centre, break for lunch then pass by Liverpool Cathedral (where Mathias Poledna’s film explores the visual imagery of modernity in the Oratory, and Abbas Akhavan has made a subtle intervention in St James’ Garden) on your way to Victoria Gallery & Museum. Here, a remarkable installation of postcard-sized paintings by the masterful Francis Alÿs documents his experiences whilst scouting for new film locations, often in war zones such as Israel and Palestine or Afghanistan and Iraq. You’ll also find work by Silke Otto-Knap and Joseph Grigely among others, as well as Worlds within worlds – an innovative sub-strand of this year’s festival, which invites audiences to engage with Liverpool’s layered past through the rich histories and stories evoked by objects and artefacts from its civic collections.
Next, head along Hope Street to the city’s other main cathedral – known locally as ‘Paddy’s Wigwam’ for its enigmatic design – where Ryan Gander’s innovative collaboration with a group of local school children can be admired, then sat upon as you stop to take in the whirlwind of the last two days. If you still have it in you, pop into the nearby Exhibition Research Lab at LJMU to encounter an installation by Paul Elliman – the artist behind the playful lettering that makes up Liverpool Biennial 2018’s visual identity – which reflects on the changing industrial landscape of his and his father’s lifetime.
Finally, catch the 800 or 838 bus from Renshaw Street to the Invisible Wind Factory where Paulina Olowska’s mosaic explores the power of public art as a means of offering optimistic visions of a better future – a fitting (if not straightforward) end to a festival which begins with the overarching question: Beautiful world, where are you?
Liverpool is a fantastically walkable place, but you may want to consider hiring a CityBike from one of the many stations dotted around the city. Note: Mohamed Bourouissa’s Resilience Garden is only open at weekends, and Beautiful world, where are you? at The Playhouse Theatre will end on 7 October.