Independents Biennial
and Liverpool Biennial

While 40 artists from 22 countries descend on Liverpool for the tenth Biennial festival, 200 independents are aiming to reach communities in the rest of Merseyside, and women in particular

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Now in its tenth edition, Liverpool Biennial is set to feature work by more than 40 artists from 22 countries. The festival title, Beautiful World, Where Are You?, was inspired by an 18th century Friedrich Schiller poem and invites visitors to reflect on the tumultuous social, economic and political times we live in.

Work is presented in art venues and civic buildings across the city and there’ll be a number of public artworks too, including Ryan Gander’s bench-like sculptures on the Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral plateau, a large-scale installation by Holly Hendry at Exchange Flags and a mosaic by Paulina Olowska at Invisible Wind Factory. A public programme of more than 80 performances, talks, films, family and education events, and special tours includes weekly screenings of the work of pioneering filmmaker Agnès Varda.

But beyond the city centre the international scope of Liverpool Biennial is offset by the showcasing of over 200 artists aiming to take art into the very heart of local communities with the concurrent Independents Biennial. From the outdoor space offered by Bootle’s Rimrose Valley to St John’s Market in Liverpool city centre via the building that once housed the famous George Henry Lee department store, artists working across all mediums will show a broad selection of work, including several new commissions.

Operating collaboratively with arts group Heart of Glass and social housing company Torus, St Helens resident and artist Kate Hodgson – who specialises in print – will run workshops in her hometown aimed at empowering young women to think creatively about work opportunities.

“Print is such a great medium because it transcends the contemporary arts scene,” she says, explaining her love of bold print, often featuring forthright slogans on t-shirts, bags and posters.

“It is all around us and my work is interested in printmaking as a democratic art form. I want to explore this potential in the workshops, teach ladies the processes and work together with them to explore what screen print can do.”

Hodgson’s work will be based in the famous Beechams building – recently restored as an education centre.

“I didn’t want to run this project in an art gallery because they can often feel like scary, institutional places so we are free to use our space as we please: a print workshop is meant to get messy! And I haven’t set a finished outcome as that would restrict the workshops too much – it may be an exhibition, it may be a collection of works that are sold. Then I’ll leave it up to the audience to dissect the language we use and question what it means.”

Also charged with delivering female-focused workshops, this time in Kirkby Gallery and titled Girl Comics, is Cath Garvey. Although men are welcome too, Garvey will be helping those taking part form comic creations based on female characters while trying to entertain and inform readers. Along the way she hopes stereotypes that claim comic books as “boy things” will be shattered.

“It’s a matter of representation,” explains Garvey. “When I was younger I thought the only comics were Marvel and DC, which always had male main characters, so I couldn’t relate and avoided them completely. I simply wasn’t the target audience.”

With her comic creations, which include a selection of Barbies more concerned with benefits claims and low self-esteem than pink sports cars and ball gowns, does she see stereotypes beginning to change?

“Decades ago comics were just for children. Now there’s a big range for all ages and it was finding funny, online comic strips by women that encouraged me to start creating the same,” says Garvey.

“With these workshops I hope to pass that creativity on to others.”

Independents Biennial and Liverpool Biennial, various Merseyside venues, until 28 Oct

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