Liverpool Biennial 2016 programme announced

Feature by Jack Roe | 28 Apr 2016

Split into six 'episodes' exploring links to Ancient Greece, China and beyond, Liverpool Biennial 2016 will involve 42 artists from 15 participating countries. The Skinny asks director Sally Tallant and artistic director of Tate Liverpool Francesco Manacorda for some of their personal programme highlights.

July 9 marks the beginning of the ninth edition of Liverpool Biennial, the largest contemporary art festival in the UK, which has today announced its vibrant and varied programme.

The programme spans 14 weeks and, this year, invites 42 artists from 15 countries to exhibit both existing work and new commissions.

The selected theme, or 'motif', for this year's festival is Time Travel, an idea that has led to the work being split into six distinct 'episodes' to be enjoyed both independently and through their connections.

Liverpool Biennial's six episodes:

Ancient Greece: acknowledging Liverpool's Grecian links, seen most pointedly in the neoclassical architecture of John Foster and Harvey Lonsdale Elmes.

Chinatown: an exploration of Liverpool's strong and longstanding links to China and the meanings of the city's prevalent Chinese imagery.

Children's Episode: a consideration of children as the primary audience and even artistic collaborators.

Monuments from the Future: an imagining of Liverpool's public realm in the decades to come.

Flashback: artistic interpretations of the past's occasional intrusion on the present. 

Software: what does software mean beyond its functional, practical uses?

The festival will also be expanding its boundaries geographically, including work that incorporates Manchester and specifically the Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year.

Another 30th anniversary will also be celebrated in the return of Bloomberg New Contemporaries to the Bluecoat, and new spaces will be opened up, mostly notably the monolithic Cains Brewery, which is sure to draw an audience especially with the upcoming plans for a new, redeveloped Cains Village set to change the area radically in the near future.

At the official Biennial launch, The Skinny wanted to know what – among the myriad events, exhibitions, performances and commissions – Sally Tallant, director of Liverpool Biennial, and Francesco Manacorda, artistic director of Tate Liverpool, were most looking forward to. 

Sally Tallant said: "I'm looking forward to the ways in which the work will be presented in layers, the way that it is intended to cross barriers. For example, the ABC Cinema [Lime Street's iconic abandoned cinema] will host installation work from Céline Condorelli, and also films from Fabien Giraud and Raphaël Siboni. That's a really exciting cluster of work and obviously such an incredible space, part-film screening, part-exhibition.

"Elsewhere, the idea to combine three different realities – in keeping with the festival's episodic focus – in the old canning hall in Cains Brewery is something I'm looking forward to seeing recognised.

"It's also really nice to be able to provide Mark Leckey – as a Merseyside born artist – with a platform to explore his past; kind of a homecoming project, and it's important that we're able to do that.

"We're also working with children, either in collaboration with or inspired by them, and we have Koki Tanaka revisiting the youth protest against the government's Youth Training Scheme in 1985 which, without giving too much away, is going to be wonderful.

"The Associate Artists programme [designed to promote and develop ten artists across various disciplines from the North of England] is another aspect we're very proud of. We've just recently made links between them and various curators across Europe so I'm looking forward to the results."

Francesco Manacorda of Tate Liverpool is excited about the potential for works to be in conversation with the city itself: "For me the most exciting thing is to see how the artists will present stories, fictions that they have created which have been shaped and in some ways generated by the city itself.

"I think it will give the audience the chance to view the city through a perspective of creation rather than social history, which is a really interesting opportunity.

"Seeing how Koenraad Dedobbeleer is going to rearrange and reinterpret classical objects [taken from the Ince Blundell Collection of Classical Sculpture] and seeing how they speak to contemporary work through their contrasts and proximity, that's something I'm looking forward to. Also how the work in the public sphere – like Betty Woodman's fountain outside George's Dock ventilation tower – how objects in those kinds of environments act as a catalyst for the underlying stories in the city.

"It's important to remember that the city itself is a writer, that we're able to provide a focus on places like the Adelphi which has a way of generating stories by itself. That's special."

For the full programme, head to

Liverpool Biennial runs 9 July-16 October 2016.