Liverpool Biennial: Royal Mail Building


The Unexpected Guest
15 September – 25 November 2012

The Cunard Building and various locations around the city.

The Unexpected Guest explores notions of hospitality. Leading and emerging artists have been commissioned to make permanent and temporary public artworks as well as long-term community-based projects. Works by over 60 artists from across the globe, unfold across the city in its major galleries (the Bluecoat, FACT, Open Eye Gallery, Metal, Tate Liverpool and The Walker Art Gallery), as well as a variety of public realm sites including The Cunard Building, the Liverpool John Moores Copperas Hill Building, The Royal Standard, The Monro, Liverpool ONE, Everton Park and Anfield and Breckfield.

Hospitality is the welcome we extend to strangers, an attitude and a code of conduct fundamental to civilisation, as well as a metaphor whose conditions and energy inspires artists. In a globalising world, increasing mobility and interdependence are changing the rules of hospitality. There are different ‘cultures of hospitality’ often increasingly co-existent in the same place.

Our awareness of such complexity and migration between nations and cultures makes clear distinctions between host and guest increasingly difficult. Where lies the threshold? Hospitality, after all, is based on power, a temporary accord between host and guest subject to negotiation. If we extend this metaphor to include the influence of technology in fields such as communication, medicine and biology the picture becomes even more complex.

Jorge Macchi

Refraction, 2012

Macchi has created an environment that plays with the occurrence of being suddenly immersed in a pool of water. In so doing, he questions our ability to correctly locate ourselves in space.


The faded paint that separates the room into two halves is quite subtle but once it becomes apparent this installation takes on new form. Macchi has utilised the space in such a way to be aesthetically pleasing from a sculptural perspective but also because the strong linear forms of the refracted girders capture the sense of immersion in water. It really is a perplexing installation once you take a closer look at the space, not least because it’s quite cold in the room and to find it you must pass through two swinging warehouse doors – kind of like something from a post office horror film. Definitely a stand out artwork.

Bloomberg New Contemporaries
Bloomberg New Contemporaries, a founding partner of the Liverpool Biennial, is proud to participate in the Liverpool Biennial 2012.

New Contemporaries is the leading UK organisation supporting emergent art practice from British Art Schools. Since 1949 New Contemporaries has consistently provided a critical platform for new and recent fine art graduates primarily by means of an annual, nationally touring exhibition.

Salome Ghazanfari

City States

Starting from the premise that the state of cities increasingly determines the future of states, City States presents thirteen exhibitions developed in relation to the theme of hospitality.
More than half of the world population lives in cities and people continue to be drawn to urban life.

This migration gives rise to a double allegiance: to the city we live and work in, and the place of our nationality, birth, culture or ancestry. In cities different cultures of hospitality often co-exist in the same place.
The exchange of knowledge and experience between cities increasingly constitutes a new urban geopolitics that is both particular to each city and globally linked.

City States gives form to this idea with an architecture that is specific to the thirteen exhibitions and integrated in the open plan space of this post-postal industry building. Each exhibition is distinct, yet all are connected in offering an understanding of hospitality for our times.


There were some very interesting issues presented and raised by the 13 exhibitions in the LJMU Copperas Hill Building – or the old Royal Mail Building to locals. The notion of cities having a profound effect on the future of States is something more people are becoming aware of. Liverpool itself has played a large impact on the UK economy. Since 2000 it has grown faster than the rest of the UK., the Biennial playing a big part in that fact. Cities are powerful vessels containing all things from culture, political ideologies to musical taste and fashion trends. All of these things impact upon the economy and wealth of a States’ people both physically and spiritually.

Black Pillow

Vilnius – Audrius Bučas & Valdas Ozarinskas
This giant inflatable collaborated by the Lituanian architects/artists defies description. It takes about 3-4 minutes just to walk around it due to how vast it is. The footprints and marks left along it’s shell give it a human quality despite looking like a super-sized bin bag inflated itself to the point of bursting. Definitely a must see – you don’t really have a choice anyway because it is so big.

Reykjavík, Nuuk, Tórshavn

Hanni Bjartalid


Topography of Masculinity

Taus Makhacheva

20120920-124335.jpgA selection of 3 very interesting films that focus on the impenetrability of the artist’s native region, Russian Caucasus, a place marked by social instability. The intensity and humour of each scene will leave you fixated, never knowing what position the artist will take next.


The Biennial has genuinely brought to life a disused building, filling it with challenging and insightful contemporary art. Provided you have the time to muse over each piece of work thoroughly you can definitely take a lot away from this end of the Biennial. Do pick up a map, booklet and information pack from the welcoming staff or you might just get lost in the post.

All images are copyright of the artists and Liverpool Biennial 2012

Any opinions expressed are my own



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