Liverpool Biennial has now launched the full programme for its 12th edition, taking place from 10 June – 17 September 2023. Titled ‘uMoya: The Sacred Return of Lost Things’, the Biennial festival is curated by Khanyisile Mbongwa with Director Dr Samantha Lackey and the Liverpool Biennial Team.
Taking over historic buildings, unexpected spaces and art galleries, Liverpool Biennial – the UK’s largest free festival of contemporary visual art – has been transforming the city through art for over two decades. New venues and sites announced today for the 12th edition include historic buildings Tobacco Warehouse and Cotton Exchange, and retail and leisure destination Liverpool ONE, which join leading arts venues such as Tate Liverpool, Bluecoat, FACT Liverpool, Open Eye Gallery, Victoria Gallery and Museum and World Museum. A dynamic programme of free exhibitions, performances, screenings, community and learning activities and fringe events unfolds over 14 weeks, shining a light on the city’s vibrant
‘uMoya: The Sacred Return of Lost Things’ addresses the history and temperament of the city of Liverpool and is a call for ancestral and indigenous forms of knowledge, wisdom and healing. In the isiZulu language, ‘uMoya’ means spirit, breath, air, climate and wind.
Edgar Calel, Guadalupe Maravilla, and Lubaina Himid join the list of participating artists that includes Brook Andrew, Charmaine Watkiss, Gala Porras-Kim, Julien Creuzet, Raisa Kabir, Nicholas Galanin, Torkwase Dyson and Unmute Dance Theatre amongst others. A series of outdoor works will be installed across the city including a large-scale neon by Brook Andrew at Stanley Dock, an installation by
Rudy Loewe at Liverpool ONE, and a major new sculptural work by Ranti Bam presented in St Nicholas Church Gardens.
Khanyisile Mbongwa, Curator, Liverpool Biennial 2023, said:
“We invite visitors to surrender to the currents of uMoya, to lend themselves to its flow, allowing the artists’ work to be a compass, guiding them through the Biennial. To enter the city of Liverpool as a site where something productive can happen, as the port city opens itself up to be excavated – laying bare its history of colonialism, role in the trade of enslaved people and the making of the British Empire.
The artists unpack catastrophe by engaging with histories of extraction (people, resources, objects); they re-read cartography by engaging with histories of mapping (trade, architecture, town planning, street naming, public sculptures and monuments); and propose healing by engaging with movements of undoing violence, ‘unholding’ the suffering and centering repair work. Finally, they turn to aliveness byengaging with the human right to be alive and live.”
Dr Samantha Lackey, Director, Liverpool Biennial, said:
“I believe that ‘uMoya: The Sacred Return of Lost Things’ will be a beautiful and deeply felt festival across the city – that will both connect to Liverpool’s colonial past but also uncover possibilities for repair, healing and joy in its future. Khanyisile Mbongwa has brought together perspectives, thinking – and importantly – feeling, from across the globe which will help us see the world we are living in today from different viewpoints.
“We look forward to welcoming regional, national and international visitors to the festival and are excited to expand our reach across the city centre this year, bringing Liverpool Biennial to the North Docks. We are grateful to our curator Khanyisile Mbongwa and our 2023 artists for their passion and imagination and are especially thankful to our partner venues and funders for their support in bringing the festival to
Celebrating Liverpool’s iconic architecture and public spaces, a series of outdoor sculptures and installations will be installed at sites across the city centre. Brook Andrew presents a new large-scale neon work, located at Stanley Dock (home to Tobacco Warehouse). Combining languages including Irish Gaelic, isiZulu, Wiradjuri, Urdu, Mandarin and Welsh, the commission symbolises the cultural and historical linguistic diversity of Merseyside across the Liverpool skyline.
A video work by the artist will also be shown at World Museum.A monumental sculpture by Eleng Luluan will be unveiled at Princes Dock, Liverpool Waters. Taking the form of a giant metal vessel, the work is inspired by the legend that the founder of Rukai was born from a pottery jar protected by two snakes and draws on the artist’s experience of growing up in the Kucapungane community in Taiwan.
A newly commissioned piece by Nicholas Galanin will be installed at St John’s Gardens, next to St George’s Hall. The work, a display of bronze casts of handwoven baskets, references museum displays of Indigenous North American and African basketry and cinematic portrayals of thieves via ski-mask cut-outs. The bronze sculptures reflect the commodification, reproduction, theft, and imitation of indigenous cultural traditions. A video work by the artist will also be shown at Bluecoat.
Ranti Bam presents a major new sculptural commission in St Nicholas Church Gardens, where the first recorded Black resident in Liverpool, Abell, an enslaved African, is buried. Visitors will be invited to gently interact with the works, modelled to the size and shape of the artist’s embrace. At Liverpool ONE, Rudy Loewe will present a new large-scale installation inspired by the Liverpool Sailors’ Home gates and based on the artist’s painting ‘February 1970, Trinidad #1’, which depicts Moko jumbie (a stilts walker or dancer) and other Carnival participants coming to the aid of the people at a moment of Black Power revolution in Trinidad and Tobago.
Live and Digital Works
Albert Ibokwe Khoza, Lorin Sookool, Raisa Kabir, Shannon Alonzo and Unmute Dance Theatre will present live works for the festival, ranging from physical theatre, participatory events and multi-day performances to live drawing at venues including the Cotton Exchange and Tobacco Warehouse. Katy’taya Catitu Tayassu will create a new digital commission for the festival – an atmospheric audio work hosted on biennial.com.
For the first time, Liverpool Biennial’s reach will expand to Tobacco Warehouse at Stanley Dock – the largest brick warehouse in the world, covering 1,600,000 sq. ft. The festival hub for Liverpool Biennial 2023 will be located at Tobacco Warehouse in the ground floor waterside space and will host six artists who all explore ideas of repair and healing in their practice. Albert Ibokwe Khoza’s ‘The Black Circus of the Republic of Bantu’, an immersive offering and installation, and Melanie Manchot’s long-form film project STEPHEN’, produced in collaboration with local participants from the recovery community, will be presented, alongside work by Binta Diaw, Isa do Rosário, Julien Creuzet and Rahmi Hamzi.
The artists at Tate Liverpool explore the space between life and death and how to work through ancestral pain towards healing. Isa do Rosário ‘s largescale textile pieces will be exhibited for the first time outside of Brazil, whilst Edgar Calel’s ‘Ru k’ ox k’ob’el jun ojer etemab’el (The Echo of an Ancient Form of Knowledge)’, will be premiered following Tate becoming custodians of the work in 2021. Torkwase Dyson’s monumental work ‘Liquid A Place’ will occupy the Wolfson Gallery, directly conversing with the brutal histories of the water and docks which surround the gallery. Further highlights include work by Fátima Rodrigo Gonzales, Francis Offman, Gala Porras-Kim, Guadalupe Maravilla, Lubaina Himid, Nolan Oswald Dennis, Pamela Phatsimo Sunstrum, and Shannon Alonzo.
At Bluecoat, the first ever retrospective of work by Raisa Kabir will be presented alongside a new immersive work by Kent Chan, building on his ‘Hot House’ project. Other highlights include installations by Benoît Piéron and a video work by Nicholas Galanin. The artists at Bluecoat explore play and childhood alongside histories of objects and labour.
Returning as a venue for Liverpool Biennial 2023, the old restaurant in the Cotton Exchange building, once the home to Liverpool’s Cotton industry, will form the backdrop for newly commissioned works by Lungiswa Gqunta and Shannon Alonzo alongside video work by Sepideh Rahaa. The artists at Cotton Exchange explore resistance, indigenous knowledge and ancestral healing.
At FACT Liverpool, Belinda Kazeem-Kamiński presents a new multi-screen video work and soundscape building on her 2022 work ‘Respire’. The artist has invited members of local Black communities to participate in the film and soundscape, recorded in Liverpool and created in collaboration with sound-artist Bassano Bonelli Bassano. The piece is dedicated to imagining spaces for Black breath and breathing to expand and thrive.
Open Eye Gallery
The artists at Open Eye Gallery highlight Western exploitative practices related to the extraction and destruction of natural resources in African countries. Work by David Aguacheiro and Rahima Gambo is presented alongside a new iteration of Sandra Suubi’s performance installation ‘Samba Gown’.
Victoria Gallery & Museum
At Victoria Gallery & Museum, new works by Charmaine Watkiss and Gala Porras- Kim are presented alongside Antonio Obá‘s interactive installation ‘Jardίm’. The works at Victoria Gallery & Museum are centred around themes of spirituality, what survives the crossing and ancestral memory.
Brook Andrews’ 2018 video work ‘SMASH IT’ is presented at World Museum. The work brings together imagery of the destruction and defacement of monuments, old films, and news stories.
Online talks programme: Radikal Self Love
An online series of conversations titled ‘Radikal Self Love’ will take place in the lead up to the festival, providing an insight into the ways artists practice self-care during the creative process. Featuring Gala Porras-Kim, Sandra Suubi and Antonio Obá, each event will take the form of a conversation led by Khanyisile Mbongwa.
30 March 2023, 7pm GMT: Gala Porras-Kim
20 April 2023, 7pm GMT: Sandra Suubi
18 May 2023, 7pm GMT: Antonio Obá
Sign up for the first event with Gala Porras-Kim here.
A public programme of free events will take place across the 14-week festival in three stages, creating a triangle intended to mirror the journeys undertaken during the transatlantic trade in enslaved people. The three stages are: The Opening Door (focused on live performances and public installations), The Middle Passage (dedicated to movement, film and moving image) and The Reflective Return (centred around artist talks and music).
Advance booking is required for some events. Further details, including event timings, locations and accessibility information will be announced in the coming weeks.
The Opening Door
The Opening Door allows the invited artists to respond to the theme of ‘uMoya’ by using their bodies as vessels and vehicles for change, bodies that have historically and often continue to be viewed as objects of desire or servitude. Events will take place throughout the opening weekend including live activations by Albert Ibokwe Khoza, Raisa Kabir and Lorin Sookool, alongside talks including an inconversation
between Khanyisile Mbongwa and Christina Sharpe (Writer and Professor, Canada Research Chair in Black Studies in the Humanities, Vanier College).
The Middle Passage
The second stage of the public programme, titled The Middle Passage, will centre around the moving image, short films, and live activations from Unmute Dance Theatre working with local dancers (supported by Art Fund, British Council and Paul Hamlyn Foundation, and developed in collaboration with DaDa), and Shannon Alonzo.
As part of a multi-year development programme for international Curators, in partnership with British Council, Liverpool Biennial will host a Curator’s Week of events, discourse and networking from 2-6 August. Funded spaces for early-mid career Curators from Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia are available to apply for now via the open call, closing 9 April 2023.
On 4 August, a day of screenings by artists including Campbell X, Versia Harris, Michelle Eistrup and Santiago Mostyn will run alongside events including a talk chaired by Osei Bonsu (Curator, International Art at Tate Modern).
The Reflective Return
7 – 10 September
The ‘Reflective Return’ will take place towards the end of the Biennial, providing a
moment for visitors and Liverpool Biennial 2023 artists to reflect on the themes of the
festival through artist talks, music and listening sessions.
For families, schools and the wider community, the Liverpool Biennial Learning Programme will include a selection of online and physical resources, including a sensory pack, wellbeing routes to navigate the Biennial and artist-led workshops. The participating artists for Liverpool Biennial 2023 are:
Albert Ibokwe Khoza (South Africa); Antonio Obá (Brazil); Belinda Kazeem-Kamiński (Austria); Benoît Piéron (France); Binta Diaw (Senegal/Italy); Brook Andrew (Wiradjuri/Australia); Charmaine Watkiss (UK); David Aguacheiro (Mozambique); Edgar Calel (Guatemala); Eleng Luluan (Rukai Nation/Taiwan);
Fátima Rodrigo Gonzales (Peru); Francis Offman (Italy/Rwanda); Gala Porras- Kim (Colombia/USA); Guadalupe Maravilla (El Salvador/USA); Isa do Rosário (Brazil); Julien Creuzet (Martinique/France); Katy’taya Catitu Tayassu (Brazil/France); Kent Chan (Singapore/The Netherlands); Lorin Sookool (South Africa); Lubaina Himid (UK); Lungiswa Gqunta (South Africa); Melanie Manchot (Germany/UK); Nicholas Galanin (USA); Nolan Oswald Dennis (South Africa/Zambia); Pamela Phatsimo Sunstrum (Botswana/Canada/The Netherlands); Rahima Gambo (Nigeria); Rahmi Hamzi (Palestine); Raisa Kabir (UK/Bangladesh); Ranti Bam (Nigeria/UK); Rudy Loewe (UK); Sandra Suubi (Uganda); Sepideh
Rahaa (Iran/Finland); Shannon Alonzo (Trinidad & Tobago); Torkwase Dyson (USA); Unmute Dance Theatre (South Africa). Accreditation for Liverpool Biennial 2023 for arts professionals is open until 26 May –
click here to register.