During a recent study trip to Liverpool, I found the sheer amount of art and culture to be that of a pleasant surprise. I visited Liverpool the year prior and was not met with the same sense, which I believe to be due to the fact that we had to conform to my previous courses outlines and visit when and where we were told to (though of course this was helpful, it did not exactly cater to my interests or potential). The freedom and accessibility we had during this visit made it a great deal more helpful, making me able to study the work I was interested in a lot more, and obtain higher productivity from it. It was also because of this I was able to appreciate the architecture, character and general locations the city had to offer:
I was unfortunately slightly disadvantaged without access to a camera, so had to use my mobile phone. However, I feel I took some interesting shots, despite photography not being a main aptitude of mine. These shots will also be the result of a screen print I will be doing in the near future.
Throughout the trip, I visited such places as the Museum of Liverpool, the International Slavery Museum, the Open Eye Gallery and of course the renowned Tate.
What particularly drew my attention was Zanele Muholi’s exhibition at the Open Eye, which was definitely one of the more powerful experiences I came across whilst there. Muholi is a South African photographer (who prefers to call herself a visual activist), whose work explores gender, race and sexuality, particularly in relation to South African society and its political affairs. This exhibition was the first major presentation of her work in the UK, which makes me even more appreciative. Her sheer amount of work, and the power behind each piece is what really astounded me. As you enter the Gallery there are masses of portraits of various South African people, with what a contemporary society may call a lack of conformity explored through homosexuality, transgenderism and other issues relating to gender and race etc. Interestingly, although her work is renowned for expressing a positive outlook on these issues, I did not experience that through what I was seeing. The high contrast black and white images almost seemed melancholic or unnatural, when taking Muholi’s intentions into account. However, I realised what these almost ‘extreme’ black and white images could be presenting is conflict; a juxtaposition in itself possibly suggesting conflict and lack of conformity, which despite the best efforts of political and visual activists of today, it cannot be denied that acceptance is no easy feat.
I also found the curation of this exhibition to be very captivatingly put together.
The Slavery museum offered some intriguing visuals, particularly the short film documenting a young boys slavery to his own culture and there were an array of interesting reads and information scattered throughout. However, without sounding morbid or with a lack of empathy, I felt there wasn’t much more being offered here than I wasn’t already familiar with. Slavery is obviously a huge subject of historical and political concern, and so I have had a deal of information concerning it given it to me throughout education and the like. To me it wasn’t fresh, or did not have a particular offering to interest me more than I’ve already been exposed to.
The Liverpool Tate was obviously no disappointment, though I had already seen a great deal of the work on the second and third floors from my visit last year. Jackson Pollock also had an exhibit there. One new piece to my eyes that definitely caught my eye however was Michelangelo Pistoletto’s ‘Venus of the Rags’, where it was basically bringing together an ‘iconic figure of classical culture with the detritus of contemporary society’:
Overall my visit to Liverpool was that of nothing less and simpler than intriguing, absorbing and provocative. One thing it made me show a lot more interest in is photography, particularly portraiture. I hope to explore this more in my studies to come.