There are two Biennial installations that turn your optic nerves into a quivering wreck. And, speaking as ones who love a bit of optic shenanigans, they also happen to be our favourites.

Refraction, a lone essential outpost on the same floor as the underwhelming New Contemporaries (honestly, there’s a video installation that had crashed, and the Microsoft screensave was more engaging than the work it replaced), occupies an antichamber of the Copperas Hill building and is quietly wonderful. But it’ll take time to shuffle with your senses.

And here’s the thing – your optic neurotransmitters will decide whether it works for you, not the artist, Jorge Macchi. And certainly not Adrian Searle.

The man we love to prod (in a friendly way, of course) simply said of this decisive scatter of girders: ‘It doesn’t work’.

We have news for you Adrian: it did for us.

We bet Searle’s just peeved because he’s never seen the bambi in those Magic Eye posters. We bet he thinks Bridget Riley’s just freakishly good at painting between the lines. It could be those ridiculously tight Lee jeans cutting off the blood supply to his neural pathways.

Listen carefully, Searle, here’s the science. Not everyone experiences visual illusions in the same way. For some illusions, the effect simply doesn’t stimulate that same sector of the brain in us as it will in you. And optic tomfoolery is no respecter of Critical Art Writing.

So go see it. We didn’t know what to expect, but it worked for us. And it made us feel a bit freaked out. But we won’t tell you why, nor let you peek behind the curtain, for fear of draining the magic from it. The other thing that drains it is the Biennial’s own website. They introduce the piece like this:

“The work of Jorge Macchi draws its sense of estrangement and exceptionality from an attentive observation of the quotidian.”

Come on, Biennial. Play nice. This is a wonderful little set piece which, if it works for you, will make you smile – or, possibly, make you think you’ve had one too many cheeky Vimtos. Either way, it’s art that moves you. In more ways than one.

But we’ll say no more, for fear of spoiling things for you.

Talking of spoiling things, Mr Searle did his best to give the punchline away in his video round-up of the Biennial back in September. Not only did he visit one of the festival’s best and most jaw-dropping installations, at Duke Street’s The Monro, he actually revealed how it’s done. He’s exactly the sort of person who would have told all your friends how you did that thing with your Paul Daniels cup and balls. A right party pooper.

So, we’ll just say this. Markus Kåhre’s commission for the 2012 Liverpool Biennial transforms the upper floor of The Monro on Duke Street into a series of grim lodging rooms (complete with wallpaper echoing Duchamp’s aphorism A Guest + Host = Ghost). Wander in, make yourself at home, and take a look in the mirror… All is not quite what it seems.

Next door, ethereal ghost tales are made tangible: trapped in blown glass to be released into the aether again when they roll off the rickety shelves.

This is a spooky, spectral and special piece – and great fun too. Which, let’s face it, we could always do with more of.

Copperas Hill,

Monro Hotel,
Duke Street

Both til November 25

One Response to “Biennial Review: Two things Searle Tried To Ruin”

  1. As someone who has sat as a volunteer with the Jorge Macchi I can tell you most people need a little explanation to start to understand the illusion. Once they have received it their appreciation of the art work increases a lot. Without spoiling things I would say take note of the title of the work ‘refraction’.

    Another work where the title helps the viewer to appreciate it is Janine Antoni’s ‘umbilical’ which is also on show in the Monro.

    The Monro works are going to be discussed by the Art Club on Sunday 25/11 at 2. After viewing the art we will go to the Brink to buy ourselves a lunch and discuss what we have seen in a friendly non academic way. So be great to get both sides of the camp there.

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