Thursday 17th October was a busy day 4 us! First stop was the opening of the LOOK PHOTO BIENNIAL at the Open Eye. Peer to Peer is the result of a collaboration between 14 artists and 14 curators from the UK and China which platforms talented artists (mainly photographers) and their work – ranging from gender identity, nature/wildlife, and urban lifestyles. Upstairs is Orlando, an installation by Alix Marie that looks like a pile of bin bags with images of raw meat printed on them. Not entirely off the mark because they are actually super zoomed-in images of people’s bodies, crumpled up and scattered seemingly randomly in piles around the room. I overheard some men complaining that art where you have to read the description to “get it” isn’t real art, but I disagree on two levels. 1) They literally came up and glanced at it for less than 2 minutes before deciding they didn’t “get it”, they didn’t even get close up enough to see the nipples and arm hair bristles and feel the uncomfortableness of having the unfiltered and broken-up human body shoved in your face. 2) Does the meaning of art have to be singular? Do we all have to enter a gallery and a) get immediate gratification from the art work and b) all agree on what it means? Is there no value in taking the time, in using your own mind, to reflect on how the work makes you feel? Because, to me, Marie’s work made me question that idea of bodies as necessarily connected to our minds and our personalities and prompted me to think about how what is on the outside is really just raw meat and may have nothing to do with the individual which it encases. I liked that it left me thinkin’.
Downstairs, Wu Yue’s photographs of the former pleasure-club turned OAP home in China were another personal highlight, all being beautifully shot to capture moments of light against shadow. Our obsession with youth can make us think that old age is the creeping-up of darkness which drains away our vitality and with it our desires and our pleasure-seeking energy. From Wu Yue’s photographs you see the value in age, and not just through the tired cliché of “gaining wisdom”, but through the idea that old age doesn’t have to be about loss, maybe it can be about new life and new ways to explore old passions. All of the art work is worth seeing and does definite justice to the rising success of the artists and to the connection between Liverpool and China. But you definitely haven’t missed out too much in not going to the opening which felt very… artsy-fartsy old-school. The speeches given by the curators were repetitive and, frankly, a bit too self-congratulatory. I left half way through one to have a coughing fit upstairs (thank you freshers) and when I came back down I thought it was the same speech but it was actually a different person speaking. I’m not trying to undermine the immense amout of hard work that goes into the setting up and curation of an international exhibition like this, but the BAFTA-acceptance speech vibe was just a bit dull and everything that was said could be found in the info booklet. I think a lot more would have been gained from having the curators (and maybe some artists?) sit on a panel and take questions from the audience – that way you as the viewer feel involved rather than feeling like an outsider permitted to have a brief glimpse at the inner workings of the closed-off Art World.