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Liverpool Biennial 2008: MADE UP at Tate Liverpool

LIVERPOOL, UK.- Celebrating ten years of commissioning ambitious and challenging new work by leading international artists, the fifth edition of the Liverpool Biennial’s International exhibition takes the theme MADE UP - where imagination is the dynamo of art. Whether mischievous, constructive or iconoclastic, MADE UP is about art’s capacity to transport us, to suspend belief/disbelief and to generate alternative realities. MADE UP is presented through a series of themed inflections at Tate Liverpool, Bluecoat, Open Eye, FACT and in public spaces across the city.

Major new commissions by nine artists, which encompass painting, sculpture, installation, video and drawing, have been made especially for the exhibition and will be shown alongside other rarely-seen works. Tate Liverpool is commissioning works that ‘make up’ new places between the real and the unreal, documentary and narrative, fact and fiction, truth and lie. Using strategies of appropriation and transformation, artists distort, embellish and rebuild reality until the familiar is unsettled.

Best known for fantastical architectural installations of taxidermied animals, werewolves and otherworldly figures, David Altmejd (Canada) continues his fascination with myths and legends in a new work commissioned especially for Tate Liverpool’s ground floor gallery. Two sleeping giants lying side by side will transform the Gallery into their lair.

W.C Fields once said “never work with children or animals”. Guy Ben-Ner (Israel) breaks this rule for the Biennial by commissioning a fully-trained fox and crow. In a recreation of the Aesop fable The Fox and the Crow, Ben-Ner’s film questions the parameters of both fiction and documentary, and examines the power relationships between the trainer and the trained.

New York-based Adam Cvijanovic makes painting architectural by working directly onto a paper-like material he then adheres to the gallery walls. Cvijanovic’s enormous frescoes fuse historical recollections and representations borrowed from Hollywood disaster movies and art history.Cvijanovic will present an installation of two new paintings turning disparate moments in history into scenes for an unmade computer game.

Groundbreaking filmmaker Omer Fast (Israel/Germany), recent recipient of the Bucksbaum Award (USA), will present his most ambitious film to date Take a Deep Breath. Unravelling as a multilayered sequence of episodes, the work is filmed in and around a staged aftermath of a suicide bombing. In each episode, issues relating to the violent event and its subsequent re-enactment are taken up in informal dialogues between actors, the film crew and a certain hapless director named Omer.

Exhibiting for the first time in the UK, the paintings of Adrian Ghenie (Romania) are derived from the trauma of dictatorship, his fascination with history and the way memory alters the recollection of facts. Constructed using a process similar to collage, the artist’s source material is taken from history books, archives, memory, popular culture and film. In his work Ghenie contemplates politically turbulent moments of 20th Century European history, popular culture and personal memory, while making reference to Renaissance painting. The exhibition will include several major new paintings by the artist.

Internationally-renowned Rodney Graham (Canada) will create a new light box that dissects the myth of the West. With his customary deadpan humour, the image depicts a familiar scene from western movies: a man being forced to dance in a saloon by another man who shoots bullets at his feet. Graham, at the centre of the picture, is suspended in mid-air with his cowboy hat floating above his head.

Teresa Hubbard (Ireland) and Alexander Birchler (Switzerland) create highly cinematic videos that play with the construction of narratives, often within literary contexts. Their images capture and enhance the psychology of architectural spaces using the people and objects within them to create multiple narratives that seldom find resolution.The Year Without a Summer, commissioned for the Liverpool Biennial, is filmed at the National Portrait Gallery, London in a room dedicated to Romantic writers and inventors. At one end of the room hangs a portrait of the writer Mary Shelley, and at the other an image of her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft. The portraits provide the starting point for an intriguing investigation into the characters and blurred histories represented around them.

Luisa Lambri (Italy) produces photographs in the buildings of some of the great masters of Modernism: Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe, Alvar Aalto, Giuseppe Terragni and Phillip Johnson. Yet her images are not about architecture. Retaining some elements of documentary, the painstaking attention to lighting, composition, and the subsequent manipulation of her images, moves them into a fictional realm that transforms the impersonal into an intimate, psychological reading of place. Lambri will present a new series of photographs commissioned for the exhibition.

The paintings of Ged Quinn (UK) both deceive and intrigue. Familiar landscapes by Claude Lorrain, Casper David Friedrich and others lull the viewer into a false sense of understanding before the artist’s irreverent historical and cultural references reveal themselves on closer inspection. Hitler’s bunker, Thomas Edison’s Black Maria, Mount Carmel of Waco, Texas and the Spandau Prison have all made appearances in his otherwise serene works. These emblems and icons disrupt chronology and displace any logical reading of the original. Quinn will present new paintings made for the exhibition.

The Drawing Room: The exhibition at Tate will also include a room of drawings made by Charles Avery(UK), Avish Khebrehzadeh (Iran/USA), Rachel Goodyear (UK) and Roman Ondak (Slovakia). The work of these artists provides an opportunity for further readings and interpretations on the boundaries between the real and unreal through some of the most absorbing drawing made in recent years.

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