It’s sad when, as is often the case, an artist’s work can be killed off before it’s even had a chance. Take this description of one of Liverpool ONE’s pieces:

“Elmgreen & Dragset’s work is a challenge to socio-political conventions, deconstructing and reassembling power structures with a playful twist…Popular culture and social behaviour are questioned by Elmgreen & Dragset’s new work. But I’m on the Guest List Too! examines the hierarchy of values and meritocracy established by “WAG” and celebrity-culture.

“The artists’ oversized V.I.P. door – slightly ajar – is guarded by a bouncer. It invites the viewer in but cannot be opened fully, blurring the line between welcome and exclusion. But I’m on the Guest List Too! can be treated as a sculpture as well as a frustrating barrier to potential social advancement.”

We’ve just been. There was no bouncer guarding it – so there was no sense of exclusion. It wasn’t ‘frustratingly ajar’ it was just open a bit. It didn’t frustrate us in the slightest because – get this – we could walk around it.

And there was no context because it was in the middle of a free and open pedestrianised walkway. Had it have mysteriously intervened in some hitherto walled-off section of the shopping centre it would have intrigued. Had it hinted at something that was at once deliciously off-limits but also obviously pointless, it would have reflected the city’s curious relationship with wannabes and WAGs (although even that theme is a little obsolete these days).

But, for us, the most perplexing thing about the piece is its name: ‘But I’m On The Guestlist Too!’ is just bad dialogue. It simply fails to convince. As does this slight piece.

Oded Hirsch’s first public realm piece, his gleaming, steam punk-like The Lift, is far better: hinting at a subterranean netherworld piercing the orderly geometry of Peter’s Lane: of some fault-line being punctured. Of what lies beneath. Shame about the ugly crash barriers separating us from it. Very inhospitable. We hear that’s at Liverpool ONE’s behest. Shame they couldn’t, at least, have fashioned something more subtle and sympathetic.

But I’m On The Guestlist Too!
Thomas Steers Way
Liverpool ONE

4 Responses to “Biennial: Liverpool ONE”

  1. Annoying. Your idea sounds much better and far more interesting.

    When a commercial concept is thought up it is usually tested against an audience for the right reactions.

    While full on research might be a bit beyond their reach (although I’d like to see their budgets!) do these art organisations and artists run their ideas and implementations past people like you first and get voluntary feedback? If not, they should.

  2. I’m with James 1! And what I’m interested to know is why Liverpool ONE is a venue this year. Is it because they have deeper pockets and can call the shots? Either way, this is poor art and not a good start to the Biennial. Let’s hope it’s not representative. The lift isn’t great either, but at least is a beautifully built structure. The door? Meh,

  3. The fascinating thing about doors is where they might go. What’s behind them. You’re absolutely right – if it had appeared in the middle of a wall somewhere; if you couldn’t see what was behind it; if it was slightly ajar and guarded; if you couldn’t get in if would have been great.

    Pity, at least the lift’s good.

  4. I had read a lot a bit about this piece before the Biennial and thought it was a great concept. The execution definitely does not hold up to this. I’d imagined, like you said, a doorway that actually looked like it led somewhere. I was excited for the confusion as people actually tried to queue to see what was behind it – I think this would have highlighted more the meaning behind the piece. Nada. No such thing. But I am not an artist so what do I know.

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