NORTHERN SPIRIT

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DAY 5: Down the River…

November 9, 2012 in A WONDROUS SPACE, LIVERPOOL, Wondrous Cities

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MelloMello

Not to end on a sour note, given yesterday’s anti-establishment conclusion, I wanted to briefly mention in my conclusion a whole host of places I have missed out this week. Music was my first real love in Liverpool, it is how I have met all my friends, how I got into the art world and how I have found most of the places I have visited here. So I thought I should mention the tremendous number of gig venues in Liverpool, and more specifically the amazing ones. Top of the list, unsurprisingly to anyone who goes to gigs in Liverpool, is The Kazimier on Wolstenholme Square.The Kazimier came back full force a few years back, reinvigorated by a group of performers, producers, musicians and artists. The club nights and gigs put on here are all-encompassing, and range from Masked Balls, Black-tie NYE parties, and themed covers nights to Battles, Hot Snakes, and members of the Wu-Tang Clan’s solo-projects. I have had some of the best nights out in Liverpool here, dancing and singing even when the band has stopped, until we are politely asked to stop making everyone sing Gangsta’s Paradise acapella. The Kaz are neighbours to the previously mentioned WCS, which lies across the square and hosts some intimate, raucous music events. The exhibition and live music programmes have blended recently with a sound installation created and played live by locals Sun Drums, which has now been integrated into the Biennial exhibition. A little off the square, lies MelloMello, another example of the art/music crossover, this narrow, wood-floored space acts as a small gig venue for jazz nights througout the week and varied, externally-promoted, nights at least once a week: expect anything from female barbershop to hardcore noise and thrash. Mello has recently spruced itself up a bit, fitted a kitchen and a proper bar and now does some seriously good food.

Gig poster by Sean Wars (wwrrssddrrwwss.co.uk) for Hawk & A Hacksaw at The Kazimier, Wolstenholme Square

Jazzhands play Wolstenholme Creative Space during Sound City 2012

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Up Slater Street and past Dumbells gallery, you will eventually find yourself on Bold Street, long considered the bohemian and alternative street in Liverpool. This may not strictly be the case these days, but the further up you go, the more interesting things get. Forget Starbucks, Nero and Costa which fight amongst themselves outside Waterstones, walk towards the Bombed-Out Church on Berry Street and you will find somewhere a bit cheaper, a lot more interesting, and you might even get some life drawing, or live music with your Latte. Leaf Tea Shop does food throughout the day and into the evening, when the music begins. The gigs here are organised by some of the city’s big-hitting promoters, such as Harvest Sun and Evol, so expect names like Nat Baldwin, Two Gallants and Francois & the Atlas Mountains upstairs, and a free-to-attend open mic night happening once a week downstairs. Leaf’s neighbour, Bold Street Coffee sells and makes award-winning coffee, have ever-changing exhibitions from local producers (which have included screen-printed gig posters, to limited edition prints available to purchase) and host some of the best small gigs in the city, a recent one worth mentioning being the packed out visit from Americans Pine Hill Haints.

Leaf Tea Shop & Bar, Bold Street

Bold Street Coffee, Copyright Adam Edwards for Bido Lito

One of the many exhibitions at Bold Street Coffee.

These are the places where I spend my time, in which I meet friends, colleagues and go to before, after, or to see gigs. These spaces, business and ventures are constantly changing, growing and trying their hand at everything. And that is because they are run by some of the most committed and inventive people I have ever met, even in this city. They are always packed with friendly faces, whether or not you know any of the clientele (which you probably will if you’ve been in Liverpool more than a month…) and always have something interesting happening.

And that little bit of Tourist Information pretty much wraps my week up. Other than to wax lyrical a bit about the spirit of my city, not necessarily culture-bound, and how Liverpool has affected me. Last week’s curator Michael Duckett, asked me: “How has your hometown affected how you see the world? What part of yourself can you put down to the influence of that place?” Well, I think that one of the important things about Liverpool is its size, because it is tiny. TINY. Everyone knows everybody else and you can’t move without seeing someone you recognise. Many see this as restrictive and would rather escape in the (relative) sprawl of Manchester or disappear completely into London, but I have only ever seen this as a good thing. Artists, writers, musicians and performers all know one another and this makes for some very interesting and unlikely collaborations, it also makes for a very supportive and nurturing environment in which to produce whatever it is you want to create. It is an incredibly friendly city because of this, and because of the natural Scouse demeanour, which is basically: Talk to Everyone. You stand still anywhere in Liverpool for long enough, someone will start talking to you, headphones withstanding. Visitors often find this odd and intimidating, thinking they’re about to be mugged, but you soon get used to it and realise it is just an anachronistic politeness and display of general concern for humanity which sadly seems to be maligned and marginalised more and more in modernity. So, if I could pick one brief answer to each question from Michael, I would say that Liverpool has made me see the world as a place which can be negotiated with care and pleasantness rather than stony-faced stoicism. And secondly, I put my sense of humour, and concern for others down to this place, and more specifically, down to my very Scouse family and friends. They are the most helpful, caring, and generous people who exist and there is a small part of me which truly believes they wouldn’t quite be the way they are if they hadn’t been dragged up with the River Mersey at their backs…

Continuing this regional interrogation, my question for Missy Tassles from Sheffield who is returning to the space next week, is this: Which bit of Sheffield could you not be without? Be it a place, a happening, or a particular area?

Many thanks to Chris Meads for asking me to participate in this project, to Michael for his question and to Missy in advance for her answer to mine. Also thanks to my bro4lyf, the terrifyingly prolific Sean Wars for letting me nick his gig posters and illustrations: he has been making noise both nightmarish and joyous, and drawing for years and only ever gets better. Go see, and buy(!), loads of stuff at his website! And lastly, the biggest thanks to everyone I have discussed in these pieces, either directly or implicitly. You will all know who you are, organisations or individuals, and I just wanted to say ‘Thanks’ because my city wouldn’t be the same without you, and if you weren’t here to make it what it is, then, well, I’d probably have to move to Canada….

Primary Image: Gig Poster by Sean Wars for Silent Front at MelloMello

Avatar of Lesley Taker

Lesley Taker

Academically pre-disposed word-monger and noise fancier. Most of my words are made up, or are about books, pictures & music. Although, oddly enough, all of my published academic work is about some form of pornography. Since graduating from my MA in Contemporary Literature (& Modern Art) at Liverpool Uni two years ago, I have worked as a Gallery Assistant at the Bluecoat, FACT, and now am the Curatorial Assistant in the latter. In my spare time I write about local art and music, and occasionally about the books I love to read, mostly for local Culture website The Double Negative, and my own blog Perfect Unlikeness (http://unghosted.blogspot.co.uk). I am currently writing a book of my own about the YBA painter Jenny Saville, as well as working towards curating a rather unsettling (hopefully, funded!) show with some amazing Liverpool based artists. I have a penchant for massive, impractical rings that get me refused from clubs, Earl Grey, Simon Schama, Rothko and Bill Murray. I truly love literature, writing, and the Liverpool Arts scene, and am always eager to find chances to blend them together!

DAY 4: The DIYs

November 8, 2012 in A WONDROUS SPACE, LIVERPOOL, Wondrous Cities

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The Royal Standard, Vauxhall Rd, L3

Drop the Dumbells (Dumbells Gallery), Slater Street, L1

Wolstenholme Creative Space, Wolstenholme Square, L1

I’m not going to make anything up for this one, or write it in a narrative sort of way. Because I really don’t have to. The following gallery spaces, venues and studios hold enough real creative force and self-initiated power. So, I will simply tell you a little bit about three of the places I have seen build themselves up from nothing, or very little, to what I feel is what makes Liverpool special. Not to go all American after school special, but the people who are behind the creation and perpetuation of these spaces are hard-working to well over the point of obsession and are committed to making it work, even in the worst economic climate. In fact, because of that. All of the directors, artists, curators, installers, technicians, volunteers and mates with a brush/projector/PA who constantly pitch in to make these places work mean they are the most dynamic, inspirational and representative of the cultural heart of Liverpool.

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Emily Speed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Royal Standard is an artist-led studio space and gallery a little bit out of the city centre. Home to various internationally-exhibiting, well-regarded and well-loved artists, this space is the example of how to do DIY. The exhibitions events that Royal Standard host and hold across the city are renowned for their creativity, community, and their interesting choice of booze (and receptacles). The Drawing Paper is produced from these studios (where both of the Liverpool Art Prize nominated creators Jon Barraclough and Mike Carney, are based) and next week the second Drawing Session will be held in the studios. These sessions see studio-holders, artists from across Liverpool, musicians and people just interested in what’s going on, walking around the space watching people create art all over the walls, the floor, the doors: anywhere they can rest a piece of paper or card. Meanwhile, local musicians and DJs soundtrack the day’s activities. In next week’s session, the two will combine through creative technologies so that the drawing can be soundtracked by drawing itself. For me, the Drawing Paper (now on its 6th issue) and the accompanying events illustrate (pun fully intended) the commitment of TRS to community, artist-led exhibitions and anybody artistically-minded getting involved in everything.

Dumbells Gallery, Slater Street

Inside the Dumbells Gallery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Drop the Dumbells started as a gig venue in an abandoned basement gym on the grounds of the old Flying Picket on Hardman Street, when it was called Don’t Drop the Dumbells (named for a sign mounted on the wall in the gym). These two small, damp rooms played host to some of the best local gigs I have ever been to, and saw the first show by promoters Behind the Wall of Sleep, a show which brought ATP favourite Alexander Tucker, the mighty Carlton Melton (USA) and local psych-heroes Mugstar together for an incredible, packed-out, projection filled show. During the year this space was controlled by local musicians, promoters and artists, we had lock-ins, art on the walls and ceiling, gigs starting at midnight and going on until people started to fall asleep on the beat up couch, birthday parties where everyone not too drunk to do so had a turn of DJ-ing, a fancy dress Halloween extravaganza, and basically an amazing time. So we were sad to see it go when the license went up. But now, for the time being, Dumbells has returned, in a slightly more sophisticated guise (i.e. there’s a door, a sign, and some paint on the walls) showing monthly solo exhibitions by local artists alongside one-off gigs and music-based events taking place in the exhibition itself.

 

Wolstenholme Creative Space, Wolstenholme Square

 

 

 

 

 

Julieann O’ Malley in “Spectrum” at WCS, Copywright Lesley Taker

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wolstenholme Creative Space (WCS) is probably my favourite space in Liverpool. I used to only come here for gigs or to meet friends painting or screen-printing upstairs on self-built beds in small studios. They were some of the most intimate, surprising and varying gigs I have ever been to, but that’s not the reason I am in love with WCS. It is for the gallery space, and for the amazing programme which is a result of the incredibly hard-working, keen-eyed Priya Shama, who runs the space and runs herself into the ground doing so. Priya along with a group of mates, artists and gallery technicians from across the city pull together each show to make the next one better than the last. They are an inspiration to anyone starting out as a practitioner, curator or creator, or anyone in the arts who can’t find a job. They couldn’t find the jobs they wanted, so they committed to Wolsty whilst doing the jobs they could get, if they could, and now they occasionally get paid enough to pay rent, and asked to exhibit in other galleries, such as with the ACE supported show Spectrum which ran this summer.

 

Mello Mello, Slater Street

As a caveat, during the course of this project, and as recently as last week, the City Council have basically tried to oust two of the best self-initiated, artist led communities in Liverpool. One being the not-for-profit bar MelloMello on Slater Street, which plays host to gigs, exhibitions, parties, DJ nights and some incredible veggie & vegan food, the other being the artist-led studio space and gallery The Royal Standard, whose directors are dedicated volunteers and houses some of Liverpool’s best, most prolific and encouraging, internationally-exhibited artists such as Emily Speed, Kevin Hunt and Jon Barraclough. This sort of careless, unfounded bureaucratic behaviour may destroy the very places which were organically formed and have thrived as a result of, and in spite of, massive government cuts in funding to the arts, and the lack of paid opportunities available to artists, curators, and creators. Liverpool’s creative community have filled the gap which was left after 2008, when large, performative displays and grand exhibitions drew the tourists, but invested nothing real and tangible into the future of the city’s cultural landscape. Places like MelloMello and The Royal Standard have brought themselves up from nothing, found their own funding, found their own willing and loyal volunteers and made something out of nothing. Now they are going to be penalised for making it work. I have ultimate faith that both organisations will fight, adapt and come back even stronger given the tremendous support shown by the Liverpool people. But I just wish it didn’t have to be a constant, unending battle.

Primary image: Royal Standard based artists Mike Carney & Jon Barraclough: Drawing Paper creators.

Avatar of Lesley Taker

Lesley Taker

Academically pre-disposed word-monger and noise fancier. Most of my words are made up, or are about books, pictures & music. Although, oddly enough, all of my published academic work is about some form of pornography. Since graduating from my MA in Contemporary Literature (& Modern Art) at Liverpool Uni two years ago, I have worked as a Gallery Assistant at the Bluecoat, FACT, and now am the Curatorial Assistant in the latter. In my spare time I write about local art and music, and occasionally about the books I love to read, mostly for local Culture website The Double Negative, and my own blog Perfect Unlikeness (http://unghosted.blogspot.co.uk). I am currently writing a book of my own about the YBA painter Jenny Saville, as well as working towards curating a rather unsettling (hopefully, funded!) show with some amazing Liverpool based artists. I have a penchant for massive, impractical rings that get me refused from clubs, Earl Grey, Simon Schama, Rothko and Bill Murray. I truly love literature, writing, and the Liverpool Arts scene, and am always eager to find chances to blend them together!

DAY 3: The Audience

November 7, 2012 in A WONDROUS SPACE, LIVERPOOL, Wondrous Cities

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FACT (Foundation of Art & Creative Technology), 88 Wood Street, L1 4DQ

About

FACT will be ten years old next year, and for those ten years it has been a hub for Liverpool’s creatives, film-lovers, techies and artists. Housing three businesses, this building is a cinema, cafe and art gallery: the latter of which occasionally overlooked by some Scousers who are blinded by the comfortable seating and the fact you can take a beer into the cinema screens. Totally unique in its offer and approach to the arts, FACT fills a gap in the city which no other organization touches on. Offering workshops, displays and training in creative technologies and some of the most innovative and cutting-edge, technically advanced exhibitions, FACT is a building, organization and community, which the city would be a much less interesting place without. Immersion and inclusivity seem to be FACT’s main objectives in selecting the artists they choose to work with, and this is why I have labeled this entry as ‘The Audience’. From impressively long-standing community collaborations to exhibition pieces which look to engage visitors in a physical and imaginative relocation within the gallery space, FACT constantly pushes the artistic fascination in, and of, audience engagement. The pieces I am writing about here are Pipilotti Rist’s solo show in 2008, and Kurt Hentschlager’s ‘Zee’ which was part of the AND festival in 2011. Rist’s piece was nationally popular in its playful exploration of the embodiment of art and what it means to be female and a creator. ‘Zee’ captivated FACT’s visitors in a way I had never before experienced in my time as a gallery invigilator. Both pieces, although existing in different spaces in FACT’s timeline, had a profound effect on everyone who visited, and everyone who worked on them; day in, day out.

Pipilotti Rist’s “Gravity be my Friend” 2008 at FACT

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Walking from Lime Street station after a journey I never wish to relive (on an impossibly cold, overly-lit train which stopped everywhere) I decide to get a coffee so make my way to Bold Street.

Stood outside, gripping the brown cardboard cup and leaning away from the wind, I light a pocket-squashed roll-up and look around me. Suddenly, across the square, the ten-foot tall, painfully contorted face of a woman who is made-up with cosmetics apparently created by Crayola is staring at me through her one visible eye. Her surreal visage is pressed onto the outside world like a child’s face up against a window; it has been dragged along, distorted, and warped. I walk over, looking up as I finish my cigarette and extinguish it in the muddy remnants in my cup.

I wander into the foyer of FACT, trying to recall the last time I came in and find myself staring into a darkened room with projections playing on the ceiling. I step inside and notice the islands of carpet which seem to have erupted from the floor, on which several people are lying, staring straight up. They are apparently consumed and lulled by the highly vivid, saturated film of a girl and her brother languishing in nature, playing in water. The invigilator walks over to me and talks to me about this aquatic, Freudian Eden; tells me about the artist and encourages me to lie down. I waver on the edges, not wanting to intrude upon the experience of those already in position. But I vow to come back when I have the wherewithal to lie still and be absorbed into this psychedelic outpouring. She directs me to the next room, suggesting I might enjoy a very different sort of immersive experience.

I enter the next gallery space, where a group of people has converged. After some basic information and signing of forms, we are briefed by an excitable guide – maybe a bit older than me with a cheeky grin and ridiculous hair – who instructs us to breathe slowly, and to hold onto a guide rope so we don’t fall. This is not what I expected, walking into a gallery. There is a smell. Smoke? I can taste the thin mist rather than smell it, can feel it reaching down into my lungs and stinging my throat. We stand facing a white door and our guide smiles as he pulls it open, encouraging us to step into the space, into the billowing clouds of fog which begin to unfurl from the, now unguarded, portal. My hand immediately clutches the rope and I can’t help but wish I had not wandered in alone. I begin to think about the circumstances that found me by myself, wandering around the icy streets of this city. Seeing the lights of this building and the excited group in the foyer and taking a look. And suddenly I become immediately and simultaneously aware of my surroundings and overwhelmed with what is happening: I freeze.

The other 8 or so people who entered the room alongside me have completely vanished, absorbed into the acerbic fog which, in turns, embraces and suffocates me. And then my eyes… The light has shifted. Everything has turned and my retinas are subjected to continually changing, moving, kaleidoscopic lights, which continue to dance across the inside of my eyelids when I shut my eyes against the burning smoke. I am so dizzy and disorientated that I am sure I am going to have to run out, or sit down, but then begin to panic about how exactly to do that. In my confusion, I have let go of the rope and have no idea where in the room I am, or what to do. I begin to panic. What if I collapse? Fall over? Am left in here? And then, suddenly, everything falls away.

I haven’t passed out. I am still standing. But the panic, the wave of nausea has completely ceased to grip me. Everything has changed from nightmare to an incredible, ecstatic delusion. Bernini pops into my head, the Pieta, countless club nights: dancing, covered in sweat in a plume of smoke, surrounded by flashing lights. I am overwhelmed by joy and think I can feel my synapses firing, my blood flowing and my spirit soaring. And then, it stops. I make my way round the room to the door and enter into a passageway, and stand completely dazed, trying to prepare myself for the outside world. When I do eventually step out, everything is saturated, bright, and loud and I am overawed. I walk out of FACT past the mesmerized, prone forms in the foyer who are completely enraptured by Rist’s flashing face and make my way down the side of the building. I notice the fog spilling out of a vent, into the cold air, where it hangs, suspended in the chill. As I pass through it, my own breath mixes with the fabricated fog and for a second I am engulfed in a varying mist. I pause, catch my breath and smile. Moving on, pulling my scarf over my face and pushing my hands into my pockets I watch people hurry up and down Bold Street and begin to make my way home, again, up the hill. After so much time away.

Zee at FACT, Copyright Kurt Hentschlager

 

 

 

 

 

Avatar of Lesley Taker

Lesley Taker

Academically pre-disposed word-monger and noise fancier. Most of my words are made up, or are about books, pictures & music. Although, oddly enough, all of my published academic work is about some form of pornography. Since graduating from my MA in Contemporary Literature (& Modern Art) at Liverpool Uni two years ago, I have worked as a Gallery Assistant at the Bluecoat, FACT, and now am the Curatorial Assistant in the latter. In my spare time I write about local art and music, and occasionally about the books I love to read, mostly for local Culture website The Double Negative, and my own blog Perfect Unlikeness (http://unghosted.blogspot.co.uk). I am currently writing a book of my own about the YBA painter Jenny Saville, as well as working towards curating a rather unsettling (hopefully, funded!) show with some amazing Liverpool based artists. I have a penchant for massive, impractical rings that get me refused from clubs, Earl Grey, Simon Schama, Rothko and Bill Murray. I truly love literature, writing, and the Liverpool Arts scene, and am always eager to find chances to blend them together!

DAY 2: The Building

November 5, 2012 in A WONDROUS SPACE, LIVERPOOL, Wondrous Cities

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The Bluecoat, School Lane, L1 3BX

About

Completed in 1717, The Bluecoat was originally a charity school. Since then, the school outgrew the building and has moved to a more suburban location in Allerton and the building left behind has been a great many things, including (on more than one occasion) nearly destroyed. The building was totally renovated and reopened in 2008, Liverpool’s Capital of Culture year, which saw the city’s creative output booming on an international scale. The Bluecoat has always been associated with performance, the artistic and the avant-garde: from performative installations by Captain Beefheart and Yoko Ono to literature festivals and some of the bravest and varied exhibitions I have ever come across. I worked here for over two years, and very recently said goodbye to move home to FACT, which I’ll look at tomorrow. I will miss the Bluecoat deeply: the vibrancy, the constant changes and excitement. The amazing Queen Anne architecture and the fact that this is the oldest building in Liverpool is not what is staggering about this structure. It is the community which inhabits it and holds it close, who hold it as an emblem of Liverpool’s long-standing artistic heart. This building is very much of the people, it feels like a place where activism, dissonance and artistic democracy is truly possibly and this feeds into the exhibitions, the outreach programme and the truly amazing people who visit, work and create in this beautiful building.

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The building as a body. This old, once crumbling, body. Filled with sensual experiences, history, memory and, in the basement, the faint smell of damp. People rushing in and around, filling, emptying: feeling. Bodies are essentially about feeling. About touch, smell, sight, sound; and the emotions that accompany each intertwining sensation. About the way an entity reacts and interacts with the external world, and the ways in which that exchange builds foundations of opinion, thought and action. This building is a body whose senses are constantly reeling, and who opens up these sensory experiences to all of those who step inside.

The Bluecoat, which is a maze of studios and spaces filled with the history of so much, contains many rooms which I love. But there is one which I have loved more than any other. More than the Printing Studios, which are vibrant, vital and ran by one of the most exceptionally talented people I have ever met. If you asked anyone, they would probably say that was my favourite space: where art is made and groups of people come together to create. But it isn’t. There is a small space, at the top of a tall flight of concrete stairs which sits, perched in the apex of the building, and this is the room which has been a constant joy to me. Gallery 4, for me, has had some of the best pieces of work ever exhibited at the Bluecoat. This may seem odd, as it is a bit out of the way, and it has to be said some people go to exhibitions at the Bluecoat and probably never go up into this space, but casting my mind back, there seems to be something about this room and pieces which illuminate the senses and allow visitors to directly engage with the work, and in doing so, the building itself.

It becomes a sort of Alice In Wonderland space, where anything is possible and you never know what you might find. From wooden structures which you lie upon to feel the vibrations of swimming hammerhead sharks, sonically portrayed, to mazes of ribbon filled with fetishistic, erotically menacing figures. I have often thought it is either a very clever move by the curators to place such pieces up here, or in fact the artists who create that sort of work know when they’re onto a good thing and clamour for the space other people would disregard.

Nicholas Hlobo, The Bluecoat’s 2010 Biennial show, Copyright Graham Morgan.

Walking through Nicholas Hlobo’s ribbon room in the 2010 Biennial, in the pitch black, the day after an opening I had missed, searching for the switch to ignite the spotlights, is one of my lasting impressions of working as a Gallery Assistant in the Bluecoat. Silken tendrils rustling around me as I moved from one side of the rainbow-filled room to the other, flowing over my skin and entangling me until I sensed a clearing ahead of me. And the noise I emitted when I was confronted with a leather-clad, hand sewn figure clutching a smaller version of itself looming in the darkness. After the initial shock, and when I had the lights on, I wandered around the (still very dark) forest of haberdashery. Without ducking or attempting to move around the ribbons hanging from the ceiling to the floor, I walked across the room again, ribbon falling across my face, and distinctly recall the feeling of childlike, nostalgic, sensory glee which coursed through my body forcing me to break into a massive grin. And every time I encountered a visitor in this room during its’ three-month stay, I saw the exact same elation and was immediately asked to tell them about the work, and the artist. They wanted to know everything about the man who had created this silent, poignant explosion of colour and sensation. Again and again, I talked about Hlobo and his political motivations, his background in South Africa, his sexuality and the work he does to access the complex emotions and primitive forces of being human. And again and again, I realised how vital work like this is: work which directly engages with the visitor’s senses, in doing so, accessing memory or promoting fascination and allowing them the space to wonder and investigate. This engagement and space is essential to people walking into an art gallery and coming out wanting to find out everything possible about the creators, and how it is possible they have been so affected.

Copyright Alan Williams (www.alan-williams.co.uk)

The Bluecoat is built on engagement, on community and Gallery 4 – for me – encompasses what I see as being so special about the building. It is a space in which people can completely lose themselves in the work, and spend as much time as they like doing so. The pieces most memorable for me in this space are those which have had political and academic resonance, which have been delivered through a direct appeal to visitors’ sensory experience and allowed them to have an experience: be it contemplative, soothing, nostalgic, or challenging. This space is a distilled version of the building itself: a space which is made for visitors. This may seem a redundant thing to say of a public arts building, but I feel that the Bluecoat really is for, and of, the people. Liverpool is filled with these sorts of spaces, and more than anywhere else I have visited, lived or stayed in the UK, I feel the democratisation of art and cultural experience is incredibly strong here. FACT and the Bluecoat are two of the larger organisations which encompass this ethos, and at the end of the week I will talk about out some of the smaller, more DIY and artist-led spaces which take this ethos to a whole new level.

Avatar of Lesley Taker

Lesley Taker

Academically pre-disposed word-monger and noise fancier. Most of my words are made up, or are about books, pictures & music. Although, oddly enough, all of my published academic work is about some form of pornography. Since graduating from my MA in Contemporary Literature (& Modern Art) at Liverpool Uni two years ago, I have worked as a Gallery Assistant at the Bluecoat, FACT, and now am the Curatorial Assistant in the latter. In my spare time I write about local art and music, and occasionally about the books I love to read, mostly for local Culture website The Double Negative, and my own blog Perfect Unlikeness (http://unghosted.blogspot.co.uk). I am currently writing a book of my own about the YBA painter Jenny Saville, as well as working towards curating a rather unsettling (hopefully, funded!) show with some amazing Liverpool based artists. I have a penchant for massive, impractical rings that get me refused from clubs, Earl Grey, Simon Schama, Rothko and Bill Murray. I truly love literature, writing, and the Liverpool Arts scene, and am always eager to find chances to blend them together!

DAY 1: Cultural Fiction; Curatorial Fact

November 5, 2012 in A WONDROUS SPACE, LIVERPOOL, Wondrous Cities

Resize Liverpool Spirit

I was born in Liverpool and, apart from about a year, have lived here ever since; be it in the centre of town or on the outskirts. I have studied and worked in the city centre for the past five years, mainly between two large arts organisations, and have recently found myself writing for various Liverpool-based cultural websites and zines. I am a proper Scouser (although with a very weak accent, unless I’m drunk) and, like all proper Scousers, I am obsessed with Liverpool and see it as one of the most unique places in the country. This individuality colours not only the art which is produced and shown here, but also the venues, events and gallery spaces which continually pop up across the city and into our lives.

What will follow may not be completely factual, nor will it be fiction, by any means. It is a mixture of the two, existing in the fantastical, contradictory landscape of my memory (and exhumed with the heavy hand of artistic license). Hopefully these half-truths and real experiences clouded in fiction and narrative will begin to illustrate the way I feel about the city I have grown up in, and which I have only-comparatively-recently begun to see, feel and form responses to, properly. Liverpool is a place which I love, hate, in which I am scared, elated, comfortable and filled with doubt. It is a city that engages with its populous in a manner which is constantly at odds with itself, which promotes juxtaposition and the paradoxical, but which never leaves them indifferent, uncaring or apathetic. I think this is why I am wont to switch from factual journalism to fiction at the drop of a hat. It’s the scouser in me: the tall-tale teller, the pub philosopher. Anyone who has ever been to The Roscoe Head or Peter Kavanagh’s knows what I mean.

The way I have attempted to negotiate my city for this project is by narratively revisiting those places which I feel closest to, those cultural hubs and holes in which I spend not only my working days, but also all of my free time. These are the places, the exhibitions, the events and most importantly, the people, which have left impressions in my memory, my writing and, as sentimental and schmaltzy as it my sound, ultimately my heart. I will either begin or end each day’s entry with a brief, very real, introduction to the place which that day is dedicated to, and in doing so, try and explain why I feel that the things I will write into each space reflect the true heart of not only that organization, or venue, but also the cultural landscape of Liverpool as I see it.

I am perpetually interested in the various forms of embodiment, and as such, my writing is continually aimed at pulling you into a room, a place, a moment; and explaining a non-verbal emotion, reaction or instinct as thoroughly as possible using the invariably constrictive medium of language. Most of what I write will be real, but I deal, as always, in the construction of a feeling and that’s what is most important to me during this week: to try and make you see, and experience, these aspects of Liverpool as I do. So whether that is best done by just telling you about them, or by telling tales remains to be seen…

Image: Copywright Sean Wars for TVS Magazine

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Lesley Taker

Academically pre-disposed word-monger and noise fancier. Most of my words are made up, or are about books, pictures & music. Although, oddly enough, all of my published academic work is about some form of pornography. Since graduating from my MA in Contemporary Literature (& Modern Art) at Liverpool Uni two years ago, I have worked as a Gallery Assistant at the Bluecoat, FACT, and now am the Curatorial Assistant in the latter. In my spare time I write about local art and music, and occasionally about the books I love to read, mostly for local Culture website The Double Negative, and my own blog Perfect Unlikeness (http://unghosted.blogspot.co.uk). I am currently writing a book of my own about the YBA painter Jenny Saville, as well as working towards curating a rather unsettling (hopefully, funded!) show with some amazing Liverpool based artists. I have a penchant for massive, impractical rings that get me refused from clubs, Earl Grey, Simon Schama, Rothko and Bill Murray. I truly love literature, writing, and the Liverpool Arts scene, and am always eager to find chances to blend them together!