Biennial 2021: Curator’s theme “more important than ever”

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Stacked Heads on Canning Dock / © Liverpool Biennial

Liverpool Biennial’s theme is more significant this year, says curator Manuela Moscoso, as the visual arts festival returned this weekend. 

The plans for last years festival rolled over to this year as the originally conceived idea will be delivered but responsive to the new context of society.

The theme this year is ‘The Stomach and the Port, curated by Mr Moscosowhich explores the notions of the body and ways of connecting with the world. Fifty other artists and two collectives are joining this year, from 30 different countries. 

The biennial, which is in its 11th year, is returning following the cancellation of last year’s event due to the coronavirus pandemic. The festival has transformed the city for the last 20 years through contemporary visual art whether it be through sculptures, installations and digital commissions. 

Mr Moscoso said: “We are profoundly grateful to each of the 50 artists taking part in this year’s biennial for their support in such uncertain and changing times. 

Developed over several years, The Stomach and the Port hinges on two key ideas of exchange and connection, set against the maritime history of Liverpool. 

 The first ‘outside’ chapter presents works that connect bodies and experiences to key places, past and present, speaking of the movement of humans across the sea and proposing new understandings of the relationships between the body and nature. 

 With the opening of the second ‘inside’ chapter of exhibitions later in spring, the biennial in all its entirety will present a re-calibration of the senses and a catalyst for change and healing, following the universal shifts we have all experienced in this past year. “ 

 At the online launchArts Council England chair Nicholas Serot, said the biennial will shine a light on Liverpool’s architecture and cultural history.  

 It’s been enormously strengthened in recent years by the creation of new organisations but also by collaboration between large and small organisations,” he said. 

 “This is the first large-scale festival event in the UK this spring. It is a harbinger of hope and a harbinger of better times to come.” 

Osteoclast / © Liverpool Biennial

 Three exhibits have been unveiled already:

Stacked heads by Rashid Johnson  

A totem of two cast heads made from bronze and furnished with plants to evoke the  feeling of collective anxiety. 

  • Incorporating organic elements in his work, the plants which grow from the sculpture are yucca and cactiThey, are selected based on the location being on the windy Canning Dock as they can endure harsh winds and saline waters of the Mersey.  

Osteoclast by Theresa Solar 

  • Made up of five kayaks, each sculpture reflects on the shape of a human bone. The sculptures are anchored on the rich maritime history of Liverpool 
  • These also celebrate our capacity for transition and transformation. 
  • It contrasts the enormous ships that were and still are docked in Liverpool and is located at Exchange Flags 

Pan African flags for the Relic Travellers alliance by Larry Achiampong 

  • Pan-African flags on buildings and streets across Liverpool City Centre.  
  • Featuring 54 stars that represent all the countries of Africa, these flags evoke solidarity and collective empathy while some of their locations speak to Liverpool’s connection with the enslavement of West Africans as part of the transatlantic slave trade. 
  • Four of the artists flags will be shownAscension, Community, Motion and Squadron as well as four new designs, Dualities, Bringers of Life, Mothership and What I hear I Keep.

The festival runs until the June 27 and for more information on these sculptures and future work go to 


About Harley Rapp, JMU Journalism