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Beyond the Biennial

Our evaluation of Liverpool Biennial 2016 is published
22.02.2017

Our evaluation of Liverpool Biennial 2016 has just been published and it raises some interesting issues in relation to public art, placemaking and local cultural identity.

Liverpool is well known for its extensive cultural infrastructure, with the Biennial providing an opportunity to celebrate this; creating a linked-up experience of the city. Tate Liverpool, Bluecoat, Walker and Open Eye Gallery all took part alongside Biennial-specific venues and a range of unusual spaces and sites across the city. The effect was to break down normal divisions between public and private spaces, but also to reframe the identity of the city as a space for art exploration for the 14-weeks of the Biennial.

It is hard to quantify attendees’ experience of the Biennial as a three-month art-as-part-of-the-city event, especially how it makes attendees reflect or react to the work.

The city stakeholders we interviewed suggested that the Biennial can create moments of contemplation for people from all backgrounds. In this sense it is democratising city spaces with an intention beyond commemoration or beautification; creating out of the ordinary experiences for residents and visitors alike.

However, a challenge remains for Liverpool (and other cities) to explore these interactions in greater depth, both those that are fleeting and those more considered. A deeper understanding of the experience, and by extension, the (intrinsic and instrumental) value of ‘public art’ needs to be made clearer through a more concerted effort to consistently explore what biennials, and art in the public realm in general, actually do for their cities. Through this evaluation we have made a start, but there is a lot further we can go, conceptually and methodologically.

- Douglas Lonie, Senior Consultant