Christian NewbyHierarchies of Allegiance, The Royal Standard’s first exhibition during Liverpool Biennial 2010, opened to much fanfare and a packed house for its preview a couple of weeks back.

Occurring on Biennial press night when a number of more high profile venues across the city chose to stage their own previews, it goes to show the growing stature of this already acclaimed artist led studio that so many of the arts community spent their evening on the outskirts of the city centre.

The studio, led by a new line up of directors, is displaying greater levels of ambition and reach (no doubt galvanised by their acclaimed appearance earlier this year at ‘No Soul for Sale’, a celebration of international independent artist groups, hosted by Tate Modern), evidenced here with Hierarchies, their Biennial strand.

Co-curated by two of those new directors, Laura Robertson (who promised the show “would be one of the strongest exhibitions during the Biennial”) and Lucy MacDonald, Hierarchies of Allegiance features disparate works by artists Christian Newby (large scale drawings in ink, charcoal and pencil), Jonathan Baldock (“craft meets carnival” in powerful, tribal inspired sculpture), and the Pil and Galia Kollectiv (performance artists/film makers).

Jonathan BaldockThe works are unified by themes of custom and symbolism, each artist engaging with socio-cultural subject matter, perhaps most strikingly exemplified by the Pil and Galia Kollectiv’s (P&G Kollectiv) film, ‘The Future is Now’, a short dealing with totalitarianism, modernism and dystopian futures, it is an homage recalling everything from Kandinsky to Orwell (even throwing in a reference to constructivism for good measure). It is nothing less than a master-class in satire and pastiche.

Coinciding with the preview, P&G Kollectiv performed their most recent commission, ‘We’, aiming to “challenge the individualism of the Western pop song.” You could certainly see what they were aiming for (think Kraftwerk driven by post-millennial politico sensibilities), unfortunately the performance was imbued with none of the restraint (where synth-pop is concerned, they clearly feel more is more), or assuredness of their excellent film.

Still, the exhibition ensures that, as ever, some of the most interesting things happen at the fringes of the city, and that this unassuming gallery and studio – part of the Cooperatives Strand of the Biennial – remains the standard bearer.

You can catch a screening of P&GKollectiv’s ‘The Future Trilogy’ (2006-2009) this Saturday at 6pm, and on the 16th don’t miss Jonathan Baldock in conversation with Lucy MacDonald and Laura Robertson from 2pm.

Mike Pinnington

Hierarchies of Allegiance:  Until 17 October
The Royal Standard

Unit 3 Vauxhall business Centre
131 Vauxhall road, Liverpool

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