Liverpool Provocations was a series of public realm interventions curated by Metal Liverpool in partnership with 67projects. The happenings took place in the city centre during the January Sales, pulling the public off the “shopping treadmill”, as an antidote to their New Year Blues.
Alan Dunn’s commission, Four Words (2016), hijacked the Liverpool Media Wall for an hour on January 20, to stream a series of animations that each contained four words or less. The multilingual statements were donated by over seventy participants, including Gerhard Richter, Fiona Banner, David Shrigley and Hala Al-Alaiwat. Contributions ranged from the wryly comic in intent—such as the cheeky “five”—to the brutally cutting “money disables us all” and the straight-forward “I hate January”.
The onlookers and passers-by were indeed provoked—to laugh, to think, to change.
In contrast to the broad, outspoken prod of Four Words, Julieann O’Malley’s intimate series of one-on-one performances, Veracity (2016), took its audience into an immersive environment inspired by Nineteen-Eighty-Four. Again, participants were challenged to question their perceptions of self, and the effect social-economical pressures have upon it.
Bridging the gap between the close and the grand, MeYouandUs’ mobile installation, Big Mouth (2016), made its presence known on Church Street and Clayton Square. The artist duo invited people to vent their frustrations into a camera disguised as a megaphone. In turn, their mouths were projected onto a large, radiant globe, and fixed upon the head of a six-breasted daemon—designed by Liverpool street artist Tomo—that danced for their viewing pleasure, or perhaps disgust, within a box viewed through a lens. With good humour and technical complexity, Big Mouth exorcizing seasonal ills, whilst commenting upon social media induced self-censorship.
Liverpool Provocations closed in the Black-E on the 23rd with a performance directed by Forest Swords, in collaboration with choreographer Carmel Koster and dancer Owen Ridley-Demonick.
Championing the body as means of liberation, empowerment and resistance, Shrine (2016) drew its audience into a heady meditation. In a large, darkened hall, a neon circle enclosed a contracted body. A white spotlight fell and a drone began to mount; a drone built from layers of breath that created a constant vibration against a push and a pull akin to ventilators: the almost melodic imitation of a hospital ward that would be silent if not for its machines, and the whirling inside its patients’ ears. Blue beams formed an x in the circle and the arrangement became percussive. Steadily, it reached the sort of seductive, hypnotic pace that Forest Swords is known for. With that, the body rose and used its confounds to simulate the motion of falling and climbing and swirling and fighting and pushing and drowning and incubating, as the ritual’s audio was dismantled and reconstructed again and again. Ridley-Demonick left the ceremony with sweat running off his back, and stood within the audience for a tense moment, before the hum of unseen flies replaced the applause.
METAL continues its winter season with a series of film screenings, creative courses and interactive events. For their full schedule, visit their website.
Simon Ward is a writer and critic from Liverpool currently studying for his MA in Writing.
Photograph by Mina Bihi