Last month, I went to the evening event ‘LightNight Liverpool 2014’ with my Mom and brother. My family and I have a soft spot for Liverpool…we spent a lot of time there during my childhood years as my grandparents, who I miss every day, lived in Formby and Southport, just north of the city. My Mom wanted to join as she has a very personal relationship with the cathedrals there…she wanted to go and say “hello” again. She loves taking a dip in the contemporary art world too as she gets to know about it through my work (sometimes not because she wants to though!). In my opinion, Liverpool is a strong city culturally, for the visual arts and as a networked hub, where that evening was a great example of it.
Here’s what I caught amongst the vast programming that evening. It began with ‘Ebb and Flow’ at Open Eye Gallery curated by Jill Carruthers, on show until 22 June 2014…a contemporary, visual oral history exhibition…a survey of the history and changes that have taken place within the oldest Chinese community in Europe in Liverpool. Works have been selected from the Open Eye Gallery archive, showing the physical and architecture transformations of Liverpool’s Chinatown, as well as documenting the establishment and development of the local Chinese community.
Included in the show are works by Bert Hardy who photographed the Chinese seamen that came to the city from Shanghai on the Blue Funnel Shipping Company vessels in 1940s. He recorded their lives, living conditions and recreation as well as Liverpool at the time; British photographer Martin Parr documented Chinatown in the 1980’s, exploring the restaurants, hair salons, Chinese supermarkets and community centres that were popular at the time; John Campbell and Moira Kenny known as The Sound Agents whom I actually met through my work at the Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art (CFCCA), were funded by Heritage Lottery Fund to record ‘Liverpool Chinatown Oral History’, creating an audio-visual digital archive of interviews, personal documents and photographs; finally UK-based photographer Jamie Lau, who recently exhibited with CFCCA, has been commissioned to create a new body of work, looking at the Chinese community as it is now. Lau explores the notion of being isolated in a city full of people, where human interaction may only happen on a base level, passing each other in the street, in shops and restaurants, like ships in the night.
The exhibition gives a diverse, historic snapshot of Liverpool’s Chinatown through different creative eyes…cultural backgrounds…people whose relationship with China, Liverpool and a Chinese history as such, are very, very different, all of which comes through, visually. I hope that this is the beginning of a more formal archival process for Liverpool’s Chinatown.
From Open Eye Gallery, I then wandered along the docks taking in the Museum of Liverpool and Tate Liverpool on the way where there was choral interventions happening…songs being sung, and a quiet contentment in their surrounding audiences. The sky was something else that night…silencing…filled with raw cloud dreaming wonderment…a colourific palette…very apt for LightNight.
The final venue I visited was Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral to see the one-off performance by PZYKSONG, a unique psychedelic musical and visual collaboration between musicians from the psychedelic underground and musicians from the cathedral. It was something else…and got completely and utterly under my skin. The acoustics and lighting in the cathedral were amazing…”anthemic drones and mesmeric strobes” (see the two videos below)…and really fuelled the power of the performance. I was stunned by the absolutely phenomenal audiences at every venue for ‘LightNight Liverpool 2014’…something that Liverpool should be very proud of in terms of its public engagement.