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Liverpool Biennial 2018: Beautiful world, where are you?

  • Sat, 14 Jul 2018 - Sun, 28 Oct 2018
  • 11.00 AM - 6.00 PM

Sat 14 Jul – Sun 28 Oct

Open Daily 11am-6pm


Liverpool Biennial is the UK biennial of contemporary art. Taking place over 15 weeks across the city in public spaces, galleries, museums and online, the Biennial commissions artists from around the world to make and present work in the context of Liverpool. The 10th edition titled Beautiful world, where are you? invites artists and audiences to reflect on a world in social, political and economic turmoil. 

The artistic concept and title for Beautiful world, where are you? derives from a 1788 poem by the German poet Friedrich Schiller, later set to music by Austrian composer Franz Schubert in 1819. The years between the composition of Schiller’s poem and Schubert’s song saw great upheaval and profound change in Europe, from the French Revolution to the fall of the Napoleonic Empire. Today the poem continues to suggest a world gripped by deep uncertainty; a world of social, political and environmental turmoil. It can be seen as a lament but also as an invitation to reconsider our past, advancing a new sense of beauty that might be shared in a more equitable way. 

The Biennial programme is presented in locations across Liverpool including public spaces and the city’s leading art venues: Bluecoat, FACT, Open Eye Gallery, Tate Liverpool, Liverpool John Moores University’s Exhibition Research Lab, National Museums Liverpool, RIBA North, the Liverpool Playhouse, Victoria Gallery & Museum (University of Liverpool), and Blackburne House.

Find out more about Liverpool Biennial at

Read the Festival Guide here

Explore the Family Trail

Watch the Festival Trailer

For the 10th edition of the Biennial, Bluecoat hosts an exhibition of works by artists from around the world, including:

Abbas Akhavan - A monumental sculpture by Abbas Akhavan fills the Vide gallery at Bluecoat. Variations on Ghost makes reference to artworks destroyed by ISIS over the last decade, in particular the ancient sculptures depicting the Assyrian protective deities called Lamassu – half man, half lion. Using a technique called ‘dirt ramming’ Akhavan has recreated the claws of the hybrid deity with soil, mesh and water. Over the exhibition period, the physical appearance and smell of the sculpture will change, its surface appearing more stone-like as a grey crust develops.

Shannon Ebner - Ebner has developed a photographic work for Bluecoat, with a related sound piece in the gallery’s courtyard. Tailored to its environment, this commission connects to Ebner’s series STRAY (2017), which comprises photographs and readings by the American poets Susan Howe and Nathaniel Mackey. The new work further explores Ebner’s forays into expanded forms of image-making, drawing viewers’ attention to the sonic, phonic and tonal medium of sound in relation to the various graphic tones of photography.

Ryan Gander Time Moves Quickly is a major new project by Ryan Gander. Gander has worked collaboratively with five children from Knotty Ash Primary School in Liverpool – Jamie Clark, Phoebe Edwards, Tianna Mehta, Maisie Williams and Joshua Yates – to produce a series of artworks and a film for Bluecoat, which explore the activities carried out in the workshops. The project takes inspiration from the Montessori method of education, based on self-directed activity, hands-on learning and collaborative produce a series of artworks for a group exhibition, as well as a series of five bench-like sculptures at Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral.

In addition to a presentation at Bluecoat, Gander and the children have created a new public artwork for the city: five bench-like sculptures which can be found on the plateau behind the Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral. 

Suki Seokyeong Kang Land Sand Strand is a new multi-part installation produced for Bluecoat. The work transforms the exhibition space into a grid. Building on the concept of the hwamunseok – a traditional Korean woven mat, interpreted as the minimum space provided for each individual in society – it is activated by performers and the audience. The choreography, inspired by the Spring Oriole Dance and traditionally performed on the hwamunseok, is shared with visitors. The movements on the mat serve as the blueprint for the wider installation consisting of painting, sculpture and video.

Janice Kerbel - Fight is a series of silkscreen posters located outside Bluecoat. Kerbel first choreographed an unarmed fight for a group of 12 individuals. Every action of the fight was recorded on sheets of paper the size of a body, using text in the area corresponding to the part of body where the impact is received. These drawings act both as recipients of action – becoming illegible with the layering of type – and a score for future action. The drawings were then printed onto campaign poster paper, which are presented from the ground up, emphasising their relationship to humans. Kerbel is interested in how fights can both erupt and dissipate unannounced, regardless of context or setting.

Janice Kerbel’s Fight is located outside on Blundell Street. To view the artworks please exit through the garden & take your first left.

Silke Otto-Knapp - Silke Otto-Knapp’s new large-scale painting wraps around the perimeters of Bluecoat's Gallery 4, combining figures in group formations with abstract panels. At the centre of the work is the construct of the stage, with motifs ranging from choreographed groups of figures, historical stage sets and pared-down landscapes. Otto-Knapp works with watercolour on canvas, using a process of removal and accumulation of pigment in order to create spaces where the flatness of the pictorial surface contrasts with an illusionistic construction of space.

Melanie Smith - Maria Elena takes its title from a town situated in the Atacama Desert, South America; one of the world’s driest deserts. The settlement is connected to the oldest salt mine in Chile, which was owned by the Guggenheim family in the 1920s. The film combines fragmented narratives of the colonial past with the dusty present of the salt mine. It further explores Smith’s interest in industrial expansion in the Americas during the 20th century and its relationship to violence and crime.

Also on show during Liverpool Biennial 2018 are partner exhibitions John Moores Painting Prize at the Walker Art Gallery, Bloomberg New Contemporaries at Liverpool John Moores University's Liverpool School of Art & Design, and the Biennial Fringe. 

Liverpool Biennial 2018 celebrates 20 years of presenting international art in the city and region. It is also part of Liverpool 2018, a thrilling year-long programme which celebrates the city's culture and creativity a decade on from European Capital of Culture.

Find out more about Liverpool Biennial at

Read the Festival Guide here

Throughout the exhibition there will be a number of Biennial events at Bluecoat:

Suki Seokyeong Kang: Gallery Activation / Sat 25 Aug / 22 Sep / 27 Oct / 1pm / Free, drop-in / More info

Saturday Curator Tours / Sat 15 Sep, 13 Oct / 3pm / Free, booking required / More info

Beautiful World Reading and Discussion Group / Tue 11 Sep, 25 Sep, 9 Oct, 23 Oct / 6 - 7pm / Tickets: £3 per session / More info

Biennial Family Afternoon / Sat 18 Aug / 1 - 4pm / Free, drop-in / More info

Image credits

Biennial Private View, 2018. Photo: Brian Roberts.

Abbas Akhavan, Variations on Ghost, 2018. Photo: Rob Battersby.

Suki Seokyeong Kang, Land Sand Strand, 2018. Photo: Rob Battersby.

Janice Kerbel, Fight, 2018. Photo: Rob Battersby.

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