Liverpool Biennial presented Touched, the International 10 exhibition as part of Liverpool Biennial 2010
18 September – 28 November 2010
In a world packed with countless biennials, triennials and the rest, this madcap event in Liverpool remains distinctive and entertaining. The shows are scattered all over the city, often in pretty strange places, but the overall ambition – to introduce British audiences to up-and-coming international artists and trends – is adhered to excellently.’
The International exhibition for Liverpool Biennial 2010 presented the work of over 60 artists; around half were commissioned to make new work.
The exhibition took place in five art galleries – A Foundation, the Bluecoat, FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology), Open Eye Gallery, Tate Liverpool – and several non-gallery sites as well.
The most prominent of these was in Renshaw Street, where there were three further groupings of artworks within the exhibition: paintings not previously exhibited in the UK under the title The Human Stain; installations and actions that re-animate a disused shop with the aim of Re:Thinking Trade; and the final act of Tania Bruguera’s legendary Cátedra Arte de Conducta from Havana, with continuing actions over the ten weeks by twenty Cuban artists reinventing Allan Kaprow’s Happenings.
The show was developed in dialogue, the curator from each gallery elaborating her or his own particular interest in the overall theme Touched; the artists share the practice of contemporary art as a globalised activity, but the value of their work comes from their ability to communicate the specifics of their cultural experience and viewpoint.
The curatorial team started with the recognition that the practice of some artists (and it’s not such a large number) speaks directly to a wide variety of individuals from different cultures, without mediation, without the intercession of saleroom or celebrity.
What defines art that has this ability to communicate directly, this width of crosscultural appeal? Emotional experience is common to all humanity. Art that evokes emotion in one individual, despite all the cultural specifics that determine that person’s reactions, will reach out to many other individuals with varied cultural backgrounds. Touched presented art with emotional impact. Art that not only gained our attention but that moved us, motivated us, allowed us to find a way to change ourselves.
Art without emotional force is without intellectual power. Brian McMaster, in his 2008 report Excellence in the Arts, suggested that ‘excellence in culture occurs when an experience affects and changes an individual. An excellent cultural experience goes to the root of living’. While we may believe strongly in making art as accessible as possible, the experience of the best art does not come entirely ‘free’. In some sense it’s an attack on our individual sovereignty, by requiring us to find commonality with others. So the best art is not to everyone’s taste. Who can afford the time, attention, energy to be touched? To be touched, it is necessary to be bold, to be vulnerable.
Artistic Director, Liverpool Biennial