Contemporary Art Practice Students Engage at Liverpool Independents Biennial

Cooked and Raw is a four-day event for the Liverpool Independents Biennial featuring students and staff of the Royal College of Art. Over 30 artists have joined forces to create an exhibition, performances and participatory happenings from 14–17 July at Francis Ewes Publishing House & Gallery, St. John’s Market and along the route between the two venues. Collectively the works presented unpack the contemporary social phenomena of intensity, value, exploitation of labour and its spectacle.

The project features work from recent graduates and first year students from the Public Sphere pathway of MA Contemporary Art Practice (CAP), as well as several other first year students from the School of Arts & Humanities, Public Sphere Tutor Dr Pil Kollectiv and Senior Tutor and Pathway Leader for Public Sphere Professor Johnny Golding. The event will also feature a forum on 15 July at the George Henry Lee Building, which will provide a platform for the public to take part in a dialogue around the subjects arising from the events.

Cooked and Raw emerged from an evening of screenings, performances and participatory works by Public Sphere students at FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology) Gallery, Liverpool, which took place in April 2018. Through the support of Professor Johnny Golding, Mike Stubbs (CEO / Director of FACT) and Patrick Kirk-Smith (Art in Liverpool), the project was developed to become a part of the Independents Biennial.

Run by Art in Liverpool, the Independents Biennial takes place from 14 July to 28 October in parallel to the Liverpool Biennial. It features over 250 new works, celebrating the region’s creativity and offering fresh perspectives on how art is seen, made and used in Merseyside. For the Public Sphere students, working on the project offered an opportunity to collaboratively organise a public facing event, expand their professional network outside of London and develop ways to present artworks in response to specific sites.

The soon-to-be-demolished George Henry Lee building is the site of the ‘Raw’. These temporary displays within an old department store explore how value is ascribed to artworks or performances. The ‘Cooked’ is taking place in 6–8 Francis Ewes Publishing House & Gallery. This former domestic space is not a traditional white walled gallery and the students have described using it as ‘a temporary home for squatting artworks that radicalise the alleged safe-space of a Victorian townhouse.’ The eleven-minute walk between the two spaces encompasses the ‘and’ of the project’s title, where several performances will occur along the route.

The choice of multiple venues and spaces for the work to be made and encountered reflects the dual needs of Public Sphere students – both to operate within the traditional gallery space and without. ‘The Public Sphere pathway of CAP is a unique MA experience’, explained Professor Johnny Golding. ‘The students focus on the relationship between artist and public, and the programme acknowledges the capacity of art to provide transformative encounters, connecting a disenfranchised public with the libratory power of creativity. The students carry out research driven by curiosity, risk and experiment and respond to the political tensions, between sadness, anger and hope in response to contemporary events.’

For Cooked and Raw the presentation of the work responds to the three distinct locations. The former department store provides a space for a direct relationship with members of the public. For example, Milagros Bedoya and Sadie Rose Edginton will initiate performative surveys, drawings and workshop sessions in the buildings and streets around the site, offering the audience the opportunity to be self-led 'surveyors', apprehending the building by using the body as a non-static measurement device. 

Other exchanges include Allan Struthers’ Conflict Opportunity a participatory artwork that uses the cover of charity as a ploy to encourage thinking about interpretations of nationalism, competing conceptions of tradition and military aggression as culture. Iva Yos is presenting and recruiting people to support the Artist Emancipation Group an international network of people in support of full-time artists who seek economic and social stability.

Ceyda Oskay’s Talisman T-shirts is an ongoing project inspired by historical Talisman shirts made in Anatolia, Turkey, and Egypt during the former Ottoman Empire. In a contemporary re-interpretation of these garments Ceyda will be inscribing t-shirts with participants fears and wishes. After being worn for two consecutive nights the patterns or words related to the participants' fears will wash off, while those related to their wishes will remain.

Through the installation The Formation Event, Sofya Chibisguleva, under the name of her organisation Studio SFCH, will be selling copies of her publication Bookinprogress. Published quarterly, the narrative of this fiction project is defined by the collisions, turmoil and happenings of the real world with each episode reflecting on contemporary phenomena, such as gentrification, crisis of identity and loss of culture.

Elsewhere during the Liverpool Biennial:

2013 MA Photography graduate Taus Makhacheva is creating an event for the opening weekend of the Biennial. In her installation ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response) Spa participants can sign up for a half-hour spa treatment, during which stories of artworks that have disappeared throughout the history of art will be told. Curating Contemporary Art graduate Huma Kabakci is currently taking part in a curatorial fellowship at Liverpool Biennial, supported by ICF (International Curators Forum).

Ten RCA alumni are featured in this year’s Bloomberg New Contemporaries, which will be taking place during the Biennial at Liverpool School of Art & Design, Liverpool John Moores University. These include two current CAP students, Ralph Pritchard and Viviana Troya, and graduates from across the School of Arts & Humanities and School of Communication: Emma Fineman (MA Painting, 2018), Yushi Li (MA Photography, 2018), Georgi Stamenov (MA Animation, 2018), Deme Georghiou (MA Painting, 2017), Yuko Obe (MA Print, 2017), Bella Riza (Visual Communication, 2017), Marianne Keating (MA Print, 2013) and Tom Smith (MA Printmaking, 2007).

Find out more about the Public Sphere pathway of MA Contemporary Art Practice in the School of Arts & Humanities and how to apply.