Hello and welcome to my blog.

As part of my BA in History of Art and Museum Studies I will be documenting my interactions and experiences with different aspects of contemporary art here, hopefully developing my own sense of identity and interpretation within the art world as we go along.

I will explore a range of artists and exhibitions – focussing mainly on course directed content, while also keeping an eye and ear out for anything that piques my interest while I traverse through my second semester.

I have also created an art instagram – at the moment I am aligning each of my blog posts with an illustrated image and a quick description of what the post is about here to try and reach a wider audience!  https://www.instagram.com/mc.shart/


Having made the walk along the docks one of my regular routes when I needed to stretch my legs and get some air, this year’s River of Light trail gave me a refreshingly colourful view to look at. The artworks that lined the waterfront and surrounding spots within the city centre were a welcome way to encourage a little outdoor adventure, and the festival is yet another thing to add to the list of fun stuff that convinces me I made a good choice moving to Liverpool.

The eleven works that featured in this year’s festival trail ranged from dancing butterflies, to a floating moon, all utilising light to bring each installation to life. My thoughts at first were that for the most part this was a purely aesthetic project, but some pieces were particularly poignant, and alongside the launch being exactly one year after England first went into lockdown gave a much-needed burst of hopefulness after the worst of a particularly dark winter.

Starting at Castle Street, Sergey Kim’s Neighbourhood was the first piece I encountered. The white clothes hung above the currently closed bars and restaurants that usually keep the street bustling, so it did feel a little isolated. Supposedly representing traditional dress from a range of cultures, this message of integration and tolerance is always relevant. However, without this background knowledge provided by the River of Light’s website, I don’t think this message would have been discernible just by looking at the washing line, which featured a bra and socks amidst its larger, generic looking items. Maybe this was the point, in the ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ sense, but when celebrating cultural differences, sometimes the beauty is in the variety that can be found.

Down closer to the river, the installations were more easily distinguishable as a collective trail. Pieces like Light A Wish, where giant dandelion seeds hovered in mid-air and a QR code encouraged you to make a wish, and Futures, which involved walking between two rows of light poles, felt more like something closer to participatory art. Once I got over the anxiety of the slightly-more-crowded-than-usual waterfront – which is definitely more of a me problem – it was an enjoyable way of bringing the audience into the conversations of hope and progress that I feel this festival aimed to create.

Impossible to ignore though, was The Rainbow Bridge. The massive sculpture danced with colours, and even when seen later in the daylight still retained a sense of joy having been painted in permanent rainbow stripes. Not just a call back to the period when windows were filled with rainbows for the NHS, its American team of creators The Looking Up Arts Foundation explain how the rainbow has historically been a symbol of “love, magic, hope, inclusivity, and wonder”[1]. The sculpture’s testament using an image that so many have used as a symbol for positivity and progress, including the LGBTQIA+ community, was a very welcome addition to Liverpool’s waterfront.

Addressing aspects of human communication and interaction were two pieces, Exponential and Absorbed by Light. The latter, which consisted of life-size sculptures of people sitting on benches staring at their illuminated phones, missed the mark for me a tad. The execution of this piece felt reminiscent of the imagery that is always used surrounding the criticism that we are addicted to our phones, when for many they’re simply a necessity for much of modern existence. At this point, that argument feels overplayed and outdated. Following a year in which we haven’t been afforded the choice to see friends and family through anything other than a screen, it personally only served as a reminder of our lives indoors when compared to the break from reality given by the other installations. By contrast, Exponential, a strange floating cube that would light up and play sounds when sensors on each of its faces was triggered, felt like more of an encouragement for its viewers to engage and interact, not just with the artwork but with each other.

Overall, I enjoyed the visual journey that the installation allowed, and the symbolism held in this pathway of light at the turn of Spring and our gradual steps towards normality alongside these shorter nights. The purpose of much of these artworks was not necessarily to make a social comment, but to create an interactive and entertaining evening, something we haven’t had in a long while, marking progress in our collective lives and giving something back to the public.

[1] Looking Up Arts (2021) Rainbow Bridge [online] Available at: https://www.lookingup.art/rainbow-bridge [Accessed 10th April 2021]


It’s always nice when my procrastination-scrolling on Instagram leads me to stumble on to something new (new to me anyway), and that’s exactly what happened with the Independents Biennial 2021. As a sister event to the Liverpool Biennial, the programme focuses on local artists who live and work in the city. Following a similar fate as the LB, things were put on halt last year, but in 2021 its organisers have made the respectable decision to keep its artwork entirely online for this year’s festival. The published exhibition programme – which is available as both a physical publication and a pdf through their website – introduces this fact, and while acknowledging the strangeness of an entirely digital festival, also makes the point that the artists’ works were created for the online sphere, so that is where they shall stay.

The website that houses links and information about all the things going on this year is pretty jam-packed, and it was only after taking a dedicated hour or so that I felt I was getting comfortable with exploring the artists and their works to full potential. With the proposed intention of updating blogs, sharing podcasts, and the implementation of a dedicated Google drive available for viewers to comment on throughout the festival, it is very much a living, breathing, thing of a site. It is this growth that bears coming back to however, inviting the viewer along in the artistic processes of both artists and curators that are often hidden from public view.

The issue of the potential messiness that will arise from this approach is something that is also addressed in the programme’s introduction, but there is something enjoyable about being able to witness this gradual gathering of what could become a unique form of archive that captures the strange situation we have found ourselves in this past year. As it is for now, it presents many of its works as shifting, collaborative efforts and opposes the finality that is given to the traditional gallery space. As we move through different phases of lockdown as a unit, it makes sense to afford the artists whose work we are consuming an opportunity to share their thoughts and feelings throughout this process.

This sense of community and collectivism is strengthened by the subjects broached by many of the artworks themselves. Emmer Winder’s Social Pharmacy records an ongoing collection of the mantras or phrases that have helped the public get through lockdown and the isolation that has come with much of it, utilising the fill-in-the-blank template of a medicine bottle that visitors complete themselves to encourage public contributions. The approach of Winder to share each entry to a dedicated Instagram lends itself well to the nature of this project, as an easily updated and visually organised collative effort that is familiar and accessible.

ROOT-ed Zine’s Joy has also been adapted as a shareable form of artistic expression, commissioning local writers to react to the word Joy and describe what it means to them, and curating these poems into individual Instagram posts. Meanwhile, social art collective Rule of Threes have created Soft Sanctuary Online, an ongoing project dissecting what methods we can use as individuals to ensure self-care, and what a ‘nice day’ can look like for people.

Following such an unpredictable year, this festival is working well to bring a sense of comfort and cohesion in the form of creativity and conversation. The range of community centred projects with engagement at their core, and the approachability that these experimental digital platforms allow, are hopeful signifiers of progress within the world of contemporary art.


As I mentioned in my previous post, the Liverpool Biennial had adapted some of its works to be available as online content. One such piece is Transmission: A Series of Five Podcasts on Disease and Pandemic in a Distorted World. Presented by Ines Doujak and John Barker, the five half-hour-long episodes which have been made available on Spotify explore different themes within the context of pandemics both past and present, drawing parallels in the patterns that have emerged as a result of the dehumanising nature of our social structures.

Each episode is filled with facts, figures, anecdotes and quotes regarding the historical mistreatment of minorities and the working class in times of widespread illness that, even though listeners may already be aware of, hit thick and fast. This fluid stream of information, stating the year from which each point is being made, effortlessly weaves in instances from the last 12 months of the pandemic as part of the historical narrative.

It doesn’t take long to realise what’s going on within these aural journeys; from one voice, you hear a factoid about the unnecessary deaths of minorities forced to work through outbreaks of Yellow Fever in the 1800s, and maybe you think to yourself well I never, what were people thinking back then? And then another voice tells you that last year prisoners were made to dig mass graves for the bodies of Covid patients, exposing them to the virus and killing more in the process. And you realise maybe society has not come so far. Interlacing these thoroughly researched and compiled moments with whimsically tongue in cheek musical performances – with such lines as “the virus could not believe its luck” and “when food was thin the worms grew fat” – the cynicism runs deep, and made me feel like laughing and crying all at once.

As an artform, the choice to utilise the podcast format lends itself well to the theatricality of the episodes. Sound Art is still considered a bit of an experimental affair, although the desire to engage other senses is something that appears to have grown considerably over the past year, with artists having been made to adapt their working methods to suit our new stay at home orders lifestyles. As London puts it – “history reveals that sound art thrives in the unmapped terrain of interdisciplinary art practice, in tandem with steadily evolving technologies and social systems”.[1] This year has most certainly been one for evolution within artistic platforms, and although podcasts have been a steadily growing form of entertainment, I hadn’t encountered any instances of this format being used for the explicit purpose of a contemporary art piece.

Of course creating a podcast may have been a choice made by Doujak and Barker so that the work could be ‘shown’ and shared to the public in accordance with Covid guidelines in time for the beginning of the festival – but I struggle to imagine the impact of the words if they had simply been written upon a wall or in a brochure. Hopping on my laptop, sticking in my earphones, and delving into an immediately enticing soundscape, it felt as though we as the audience were able to more thoroughly appreciate the message that was coming across. If I were to do it again, I would go so far as to follow the route of more recent ‘audio adventure’ podcasts and lie in a dark room to avoid distraction – and the beauty of this not being a live performance is that we as individuals can revisit any episodes we like.

The only issue I had was a mostly inconsequential one, in that since the podcasts were all uploaded on the same day they didn’t automatically play in the intended numerical order. Although having now listened to them and realised they would work independently and as a unit no matter how you listen, it does take you out of the moment stopping and starting each episode, just a little. However, again, this is one of the enjoyable aspects of such a medium being used and the freedom given to us as viewers to personalise our listening experience. The digital future of art is constantly shifting, but this body of work, and others like it, feel like prime examples of the potential for an entirely individualised method of experiencing art to take form outside of the gallery space.

[1] London, Barbara (2020) ‘Listen to This! Sound Art Reflections’ in Flash Art International, Vol. 53 Iss. 332, pp.82–96.



The Biennial has officially arrived in Liverpool! Its 11th edition, titled The Stomach and The Port, promises an exploration into “shift[ing] our understanding of bodies from something humans have, to something humans are … striv[ing] for a world that nurtures life for all. In this Biennial, art explores those entanglements and their potential for resistance, providing a space to imagine.” (Liverpool Biennial Website 2021)

One idea that stands out on the site’s introduction is that of kinship: looking beyond Westernised surface level understandings of identity and individualism to enhance our empathy towards our fellow humans, using the metaphor of the shifting physical body to align with Liverpool’s position as a historical meeting point of trade and commerce. If you have read my post on Eve Provost Chartrand, similar concepts seem to lie at the heart of this project, though in this case the othering of non-Western cultures and people, and the past and present relationships that have developed from these exclusionary attitudes take the lead. It feels as though the art and wider communities are continually pushing for dialogues regarding our relationships with each other to be taking place, and it is exciting to see this in something as impactful – or I suppose official – as a biennial.

As an aside, I appreciate the way in which the collection of works has been streamlined to align with the proposed relaxation of covid safety precautions; it has kicked off with larger outdoor sculptures and is providing a weekly release of a range of online content, before eventually opening gallery and public spaces for exhibitions and workshops in May. I have hopes that much like a good tv show, a weekly dosage will allow for a more thorough appreciation of the content on offer over the hurried bingeing of as much imagery as the eyes can absorb.

That being said, I plan to track as much of the festival as I can, and report back on my most personally intriguing findings here – beginning with the highlight of this post!

Osteoclast (I do not know how I came to be on board this ship, this navel of my ark), 2021 by Teresa Solar.

Being shown at Exchange Flags in Liverpool City Centre, this outdoor installation consists of five large kayaks carved in the shape of human bones. They are eye-catching to say the least, the illusion of floating given to the sculptures by the X shaped posts that support each of the vessels. Alongside their fluorescent orange glow, the pieces give off the same effect of spotting buoys out at sea, set adrift in the vast sameness of the otherwise grey square of Exchange Flags.

The navel/naval wordplay in the title of this work also nods to Liverpool’s history as a trading port – but also helps to explicate this metaphor of the human body represented through objects. Personally I felt it spoke directly to the mistreatment of those considered less than human – seen as cargo in a moneymaking business before they are seen as people.

It seems inevitable that when exploring Liverpool’s maritime history there also comes the city’s involvement in the transatlantic slave trade. In the past year, furlough and lockdown for many people seemed to allow more concentrated efforts to be put into addressing and unpacking Britain’s imperialist past and challenging racist views that are very much still ingrained in our culture as we speak. Solar’s work and the overall mission statement of the biennial certainly seem to be eager to explore this idea and is doing so in a multitude of ways.

I noted the placement of this piece alongside the Nelson Monument that looms over the square. Celebrating Admiral Nelson, known anti-abolitionist, with four of his victories personified by figures in shackles and emblazoned with the words ENGLAND EXPECTS EVERY MAN TO DO HIS DUTY, the sculpture gives very much imperialist vibes, and as we have seen in the past year statues – among many other things – have come under scrutiny when it comes to what or who exactly they are celebrating. I am aware this particular monument probably isn’t getting tossed into the Mersey any time soon, and although it is not an urgent matter, I think it is important to note that we have the ability to bring these conversations into play in every aspect of decision making when it comes to art – all the way down to location.

There is something hopeful feeling about all this though. Despite delving into a nastier side of humanity, the very exploration of such an issue means that we are confronting our past and not continuing to turn a blind eye. It is baby steps, but in an industry historically championed by rich white men, it is refreshing to see such issues raised on this widespread platform.


The Whitechapel Gallery’s upcoming retrospective – Eileen Agar: Angel of Anarchy – curated by Laura Smith, was the first time I had heard the name of this artist. Considering she was a female surrealist, and the historical tendency towards muting the impact of female artists, this did not surprise me. The name of the exhibition itself is a lovely nod to not only one of Agar’s artworks, but a book of the same name Angels of Anarchy: Women Artists and Surrealism by Patricia Allmer, which examines this erasure in more depth.

Smith’s lecture included an introduction in the form of a brief biography about the artist. Upon hearing about her, it felt easy to place her as an extremely influential figure in the history of women’s art. Shaving her head to reject the expectations of beauty placed upon her by her mother and pursue her dreams of being an artist, refusing to pose for Picasso or become simply another muse amidst her male peers, and writing to deconstruct patriarchal ideas throughout the war and beyond, Agar’s near-century-long career contains a richness that is difficult to rival. Iconic tbh.

This is why, when hearing of Smith’s difficulties in firstly trying to build enough of a case to have this exhibition approved, it was so disheartening to hear that while working at the Tate her proposal was rejected multiple times, and in its current upcoming show at Whitechapel, the scheduled date for the show was moved from three years to three months, forcing Smith to seek alternative methods of curating in the height of the pandemic.

In the gallery’s justification of not showing a solo female artist’s works, it was mentioned that they feared it would not draw in enough visitors. It makes me feel as though despite the forward-thinking ideas that many museums have attempted to adopt recently, ultimately their focus will always be based on profit. Of course, the arts as a public sector are commonly known to be consistently underfunded, and I’m no museum director (just yet anyway). However, when you consider Agar’s seven-decade long oeuvre, experimenting in every possible medium she could and being centrally located in Europe at the height of key pre- and post- war artistic developments, you wonder how this show could possibly be anything but a success. If Agar had been a male artist, I doubt there would have been such hesitation.

I was hoping to post this blog to align with International Women’s Day last week – but in a horrible way I am glad I waited. In the past seven days alone, a tempestuous reaction of #notallmen, death threats and rape jokes were made in retort to any valid conversation raised by women about their safety within the world, and the multitude of names of victims that have been added to the never-ending list as a result of misogyny, racism, and intolerance have highlighted the ongoing necessity for feminism to continue to try breaking down these damaging attitudes.

Perhaps in light of these recent events, this is a key time for such a show to be happening. However, I can’t help but feel a bitterness that Smith was made to rely on a sense of community in order to source and bring together enough artworks by Agar to make a show. The banding together of an unofficial council of fans of Agar, beloved paintings that had been hanging in kitchens for years, and a collating of artworks that perhaps might not have been seen, feels far too much like a symbolic gesture of what women have had to do historically, simply to be seen.