‘Liverpool, 2028’, Dot Art, until 6th July, free
If it’s the case that art is made in response to the time it’s made, then Bido Lito’s Liverpool 2028 exhibition with Dot Art isn’t the most comforting assessment of where we are. This exhibition was commissioned as part of the magazine’s 100 issues celebrations, but thematically there’s little feeling of accomplishment here, or even joy. Whilst it’s not entirely bleak, it is hugely, nervously uncertain.
But then, the premise of the exhibition never demanded a celebratory tone. The question asked was simply for art that imagined the city nine years in the future. What could the picture be, how could things have changed? And it just happens that we live in an era of particular pessimism and division. The work submitted isn’t all new for this show, but it’s interesting that this is what’s been submitted. That the artists have chosen pieces that look at our times and run with them to…where, exactly?
The good news is that everything here is, artistically, really good. The piece that especially makes me go “wow!” is Tommy Graham’s huge drawing And They’ll Pick Through The Rubble With A Fine Tooth Comb. This huge, comic-style behemoth rising out from under the city with a roar, whilst the structure of the city teeters above him. Is it a cataclysm, or an uprising? Either way, it’s a vision that something’s going to snap.
This sense of not knowing exactly what’s happening is typical of the mood of the rest of the room. It’s enhanced by the inclusion of multiple pictures by Michael Lacey. I like Michael’s work a lot (I’ve written & Instagrammed about his exhibitions in the past), and what I like about it is it’s lack of tie to place or time. It borders on the surreal, perhaps the somewhat psychedelically mystical – who knows where we’re going? It’s gonna be a strange land anyway.
It’s a sentiment echoed in Alan Murray’s paintings. The Damned Parade (behind the desk, but just ask to get up close) is certainly quite the spectacle. Although the collage style wasn’t to my taste, it’s undoubtedly well executed. The elements, joyful on their own, together create a mad, frenzied, nightmarish scenario. This juxtaposition plays out in his other works, making it impossible to get lulled into thinking things are nice.
It’s not quite all doom and gloom. Hannah Blackman-Kurz’s screen prints are bold, bright, and pretty positive. Although I feel claustrophobic looking at her Sea of Communication, in the context of her other works I think she’s being more positive than that. And although phones turn up in more than one work, they’re not Black Mirror-style all-consuming bringers of dystopia. They have more in common with how many of us actually use our devices – not to replace the real world, but to learn about, chart and communicate within it. I don’t think she’s going quite so far as to say that technology will save us all, but it doesn’t have to be the end.
But then again…it is going to bring about the end of a lot of aspects of our way of life, and there’s still major unanswered questions around what we do about that. This is the subject of Darren Blenkhorn’s Golden Handshakes Since ’63. The scene is a factory; one worker is almost literally erased. The other one sits with an expression of despondency, or perhaps resignation, in the knowledge that he too will disappear from this scene one day, no longer a vital component of running things.
And if that technology does take over the structures employment, where will everyone go? It’s a very real question which no politicians are doing enough to answer at the minute. James Chadderton offers one vision of what happens next. His drawing of the Liver Building as a crumbling ruin is a warning…but also, strangely beautiful. In Bido 100 Chedderton talked about Chernobyl/Pripyat as an influence, which I totally get and think is more than just cosmetic. I’ve been there, and it’s a weird place to walk around. It’s got a feel of shock at knowing/seeing what things were like before, combined with the fascination of how it is now. And this drawing has the same feel. Your imagination goes in funny places imagining what has caused this disintegration. Especially, with this one, when it’s meant to be a statement of only nine years in the future.
Chernobyl might be a bad comparison. What happened there was a true disaster which is extremely unlikely to be repeated here. But whilst Liverpool 2028 isn’t predicting apocalyse, it also lacks optimism. It makes for an interesting exhibition to contemplate. Maybe Blackman-Kurz does provide the answer, after all. Liverpool prides itself on coming together – if we do, can we change these perspectives?