LOOK Photo Biennial: 17 October - 22 December Open Eye Gallery & various venues, Liverpool, UK Press previews: 17 October, all day Launch Night: 17 October, 18:00, Open Eye Gallery. Afterparty: Constellations, 20:00 - late
Focusing on exchange with China, LOOK Photo Biennial 2019 uses the evolving language of photography to unlock international dialogue. Staged across Liverpool, The Wirral and Shanghai, the programme — put together by Open Eye Gallery — sets out to bring different cultures into conversation. The main phase of the Liverpool edition opens 17 October, with a free public launch at Open Eye Gallery and various venues across the city.
The programme sets out to reflect on shifting global identities, worldwide environmental issues and how we can use images to communicate effectively: across borders, technologies and cultures. Following Chapter One: TRANSPLANT, the second and much more scaled-up chapter is based around two strands: TRANSLATE and TRANSITION.
A core project of LOOK Photo Biennial 2019 is Peer to Peer, a group show of 14 artists, selected by 14 curators and directors from across the UK and China, co-produced with Serein Liu. In Liverpool, it will take place across Open Eye Gallery and the vaulted basement of St. George’s Hall; the exhibition will also be shown at Shanghai Centre of Photography in February. The exhibition platforms artists on the verge of major international recognition.
Featured UK artists are Anna Ridler, with her AI-generated projects Mosaic Virus and Tulips, based on handmade image datasets and recently shown as part of the Barbican’s AI: More than Human. Excerpts from Forest, Yan Wang Preston’s recent Sony World Photo Award-winning work will also feature, charting the construction of ‘natural’ landscapes in China. From her origins as a Tumblr photographer, Maisie Cousins has been named in the DAZED 100 — her sickly-sweet photographic style uses close-ups of everyday objects to make lucid images in which attraction and repulsion collide powerfully.
Alix Marie is a French artist whose work sits somewhere between photography and sculpture. For Peer to Peer, Open Eye Gallery presents Orlando, in which photos of body parts are crumpled and piled up into a large mound of warped body parts. Othello De’Souza-Hartley’s work unpicks contemporary masculinity, looking at how and why men feel compelled to perform a gender role. Jonny Briggs’ Unpalatable Truths is an unnerving, surreal examination of the cover-up of child abuse on the island of Jersey. Mandy Barker’s Soup tackles the accumulation of plastics in earth’s oceans. She meticulously collects plastic objects from beaches around the world and presents them as constellations, exposing the growing threat to marine and terrestrial life. Siân Davey’s years working as a psychotherapist shine through her photography, which charts the delicate balances of family life.
Rising Chinese artists Sun Yanchu, Jiang Pengyi, Wu Yue, Fan Xi, Qin Yifeng and Chen Zhe have also been selected, from directors and curators at some of China’s most influential international photography galleries and organisations.
Another group show, curated by Sian Bonnell (Manchester School of Art), will bring together around 50 young fashion imagery graduates from the UK and China. Taking place at The Liverpool Gallery on Stanhope Street, JUMP! Showcases photographers from Manchester Metropolitan University, Wuhan Institute of Design, Central St Martins and Zheijang Institute.
Yan Wang Preston will also be showing a new commission on the streets around The Tapestry. He is a follow-up to last year’s She Dreams, a series of portraits made with the city’s growing Mandarin-speaking student population. Departing from previous national paradigm, this group are part of a new future-facing generation, with a fresh sense of individualism and global citizenship, not just restricted to China.
A new film and portrait commission from Derek Man and Tobias Brebner charts the people and places that form the fabric of Liverpool’s Chinatown, home to the oldest Chinese community in Europe. This will be shown at the Museum of Liverpool, on their media wall.
Although great gains have been made in the movement towards gender parity over recent years, there is still far to go. Working with Fast Forward: Women in Photography, photographers Karen Knorr and Anna Fox have been mentoring emerging Chinese photographers who are women. Fox and Knorr will be curating a new show from the body of work produced throughout the programme, shown in large scale in Mann Island Winter Garden, outside Open Eye Gallery.
Across the Mersey, at Birkenhead’s new Convenience Gallery, Dinu Li’s film trilogy The Anatomy of Place charts how knowledge, rituals and ideologies move between generations and places. The trilogy weaves together Li’s research from the past ten years, combining Super 8 footage, video, animation, performance, found images and personal archives. Over in Preston, Brilliant City presents new work from three contemporary Chinese urban photographers curated by John van Aitken at PR1 Gallery: Haohan Zheng, Cuilixin, and Ratsberry.
Running alongside the exhibitions, a programme of talks, workshops and conferences will be taking place across the city. This includes a weeklong residency at Tate Exchange, Tate Liverpool, a conference in partnership with Birmingham City University called Urban Transformations and Contemporary Art in China, and a symposium on the 29th of November with RedEye. The core exhibition programme is also supplemented with a satellite programme taking place at venues across the city, including CBS gallery, Buyers Club, Bloom Building, Constellations, The Brink, Baltic Creative, Make Hamilton Square, and Darkside. All artists were selected from an open call — many are local practitioners receiving their first exhibition.
LOOK Photo Biennial 2019 takes place across Liverpool, The Wirral, and Shanghai. It is delivered by Open Eye Gallery, and funded by Arts Council England, Liverpool City Council and The Foyle Foundation. It is delivered in partnership with Wirral Borough of Culture, University of Salford Art Collection and RedEye. Venue partners include Victoria Gallery & Museum, Museum of Liverpool, Williamson Gallery & Museum, St. George’s Hall, Convenience Gallery, PR1 Gallery, and The Gallery, Liverpool. Further funding support comes from Spectrum, Genesis and Colloids. Other partners include Photography of China, Shuttherhub, and Connections Through Culture (British Council).