This year, the event hasn’t even started and he’s called the Biennial’s Unexpected Guest theme of hospitality ‘underwhelming’. Something tells us he’s written the majority of his review before he’s booked his super-saver Virgin ticket.
It’s our self appointed task to find Searle’s whelm spot, and lift it, coax it, lovingly to a higher ground.
We’re not 100% behind Dave Eggers’ comment, on criticism, that “If you’ve not written a book, don’t ever criticise one.” But when we read Searle’s bi-yearly snort we kinda know where he’s coming from. And we’d have more time for him if his opinions didn’t seem so intractable, pre-loaded and curmudgeonly (not to mention broadly out of step with other commentators).
In the past, Searle’s commented that the event offered ‘a sprawl of loosely connected exhibitions’ (2002), that ‘social engagement doesn’t necessarily mean engaging art: it can mean boring art. So it is at Liverpool.’ (2004), and has ruminated ‘who, and what, are these (forlorn) events for?’ (2006).
In 2008 he took stock: “I have seen every Liverpool biennial (this is the fifth), and each has left me flat. It should be hot – especially as Liverpool celebrates its year as European Capital of Culture. Sadly, it isn’t.”
To be fair, there’s usually something in every shindig that leaves Searle smiling (last time he, like us, raved about Ryan Trecartin’s video mash-ups). But the overriding opinion Searle bangs on about is the Biennial’s theme. Whether Made Up, Touched or, in 2002: “The themes are a rambling, baggy list of issues (“spin… viral contamination… celebrity culture… catastrophe anxiety, hedonism and terrorism”), and are heavy-handed spin in themselves,” the Biennial’s themes make Searle scream like a clumsily stolen Munch.
When discussing Art Sheffield’s 2010 Biennial, he even went out of his way to deliberately bring us into his review: “(Sheffield) didn’t want to make yet another biennial that tried to explain a city to the people who already live there (someone should tell this to Liverpool, whose biennial falls for this narcissistic theme every time),” he barbed.
For its last outing, Touched, Searle commented “Touched? In the head, or touched for money? Precocious… Much of the biennial is bland and well-meant, and as ineffectual as sun cream in a Merseyside September.”
He should have been here this weekend. We positively baked without our Clinique Superdefence SPF 15.
“All international biennials try to impose a theme, a rubric or gimmick, to make the thing coherent and relevant..” he says, concluding that the result of this is “ too much mediocre art that nobody, not even the artist who made it, needs.”
Well, Searle, we’re nothing if not helpful. So, for your perusal, we present seven future themes for the Liverpool Biennial.
We think they all hold much excitey promise. Do let us know if you’d like us to expand on them.
2) Brooklyn Bridge/Empty Fridge
(with the Independent’s Biennial tackling “I don’t want to see a ghost/I’d rather have a piece of toast”)
3) The best hamster
4) Don’t you dare talk to your hot yoga teacher with that tone
5) Stains (or Staines, Surrey)
6) #unfollows *facepalm*
7) Amanda Moss
The Liverpool Biennial
15 September – 25 November