Liverpool Biennial, various venues, Liverpool

3.00

An art biennial – and there are so many of them these days – succeeds when it yokes together (sometimes with more than a touch of violence) the official and the unofficial; when it seems to be in productive conversation with the city – its buildings, its history, its civic identity – where it is being staged. It succeeds least well when the work feels as if it is being transported from place to place for no particular reason other than that it may be "international" in its appeal.

This year's theme is "Touched", which seems to promise an immediacy of emotional response. And, for the most part, that promise is kept. Looking at any biennial is always a game of hide-and-seek. Where is the art exactly? Here, it is almost everywhere – in pubs, public spaces, derelict department stores, between decrepit 19th-century buildings – and, of course, in the official cultural locations such as Tate Liverpool, the Bluecoat Gallery, FACT. Sometimes, the art can be extremely hard to find. Street signage could be improved. It's outside only some of the locations.

Start off at 52 Renshaw Street, where artists have colonised semi-derelict shops. As you walk along the street, you see sloganeering in the windows. Once inside, you move through the shops. There's a lot of good figurative painting here, work which seems to rhyme with the atmosphere of Liverpool itself – urban dereliction, dispossession, isolation. Look out for works by Y.Z. Kami, Edi Hila and the Kinshasa-born Aimé Mpane, who makes small portraits on wooden panels. He scores into the surface, burns out entire areas. The soul of the subject is always damaged, he is telling us.

Dipping down into Wood Street, you seek in vain for the garage at No 106 (yes, you do find it eventually) where Raymond Pettibon, that poker of fun at the absurdities of the American Dream, has been cartooning on the walls. But where is our sense of Liverpool and its past in all of this?

It's vividly present in a remarkable work called "Passage" by the Filipino artists Maria Isabel Gaudinez-Aquilizan and Alfredo Juan Aquilizan on the fourth floor at Tate Liverpool. An entire gallery has been engulfed by what look like a rackety crowd of unstable ships made from wood, cardboard, sticky tape. It's a wonderful, bustly procession that brings to mind some scene from mercantilist Liverpool of the 19th century, and, given that the gallery overlooks the weirdly empty and silent River Mersey, it could not be better sited. The last biennial had a couple of very good outdoor sculptural interventions. Look out for a delightful surprise between 84 and 86 Duke Street, where, behind a pair of black gates, the Korean artist Do Ho Suh has suspended between two walls what looks like a tilted, cube-shaped fragment of a traditional Korean house.

Another project that fruitfully engages with the city is a remarkable film in the Anglican Cathedral. Danica Dakic's "Grand Organ" was filmed entirely inside St George's Hall, the looming, colonnaded Greek-Revival structure that is often the first glimpse that any visitor gets of Liverpool when stepping out of Lime Street Station. The building – with its courthouse, prison cells and concert hall – is a near-perfect setting for a ghoulish tale of entrapment.

To 28 November (www.biennial.com)

News
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment

 

film review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Relocation, relocation: Zawe Ashton travels the pathway to Northampton
Arts and Entertainment
BBC Three was launched a little over five years ago with the slogan: “Three, is a magic number, yes it is.”

BBC Trust agrees to axe channel from TV in favour of digital move

TV
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer

film
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
Armie Hammer in the new film of ‘The Lone Ranger’

TV
Arts and Entertainment

festivals
Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

TV
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

    EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

    An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

    The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
    How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

    Heavy weather

    What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
    World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

    World Bodypainting Festival 2015

    Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
    alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

    Don't call us nerds

    Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
    How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

    How to find gold

    Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
    Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

    Not born in the USA

    Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
    10 best balsamic vinegars

    10 best balsamic vinegars

    Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
    Wimbledon 2015: Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

    Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

    Serena dispatched her elder sister 6-4, 6-3 in eight minutes more than an hour
    Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

    Greece referendum

    Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
    Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

    7/7 bombings anniversary

    Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
    Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

    Versace haute couture review

    Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
    No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

    No hope and no jobs in Gaza

    So the young risk their lives and run for it
    Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

    Fashion apps

    Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
    The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

    Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

    Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy