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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Friday, October 11, 2002
    Super Lamb Banana still does it for me
    Another wander through the riches of Liverpool's Biennial today. At the Tate I suffered contemporary art overload - too many challenging video installations too early in the morning - and had to leave when confronted with Jason Rhoades' The Liver Pool, "an inflatable pool in the shape of a liver, with audio and pumping equipment, green peas, white virgin Styrofoam beads, salmon roe and white glue".

    Still, I managed to find interest in two approaches to filming the natural environment - Clare Langan's journeys through landscapes bubbling with frightening sulphurous life, colours more-real-than-real, "explorations", she says, "of mankind's brief and fragile existence, in the face of the apparrently limitless forces of nature", and Mark Lewis's beautiful films of Algonquin Park, Ontario, Canada [above], where humanity features as part of the quiet activity in the vast space of nature, a boat slowly emerging from out of an island mist, a group of ice-hockey players coming gradually into view in a corner of a vast snowscape. Beautiful.

    But the best art in Liverpool today, for me, was in the arena of the general public. Two things: Tatsurou Bashi's Villa Victoria [below] and the now-well-established Super Lamb Banana [left]. The Villa Victoria is the city centre's massive Queen Victoria Monument transformed into a real-life hotel room, on view to the public by day, on hire (at £100) by night, and sold out now till the end of its run late November. A fantastic idea, amusing (would she have been amused?) and one which has caught the public's imagination: imagine waking up with an eighteen-foot statue of Queen Vic at the foot of your bed. It's probably the most-visited Biennial piece, and one we'll all remember gladly.

    Taro Chiezo's Super Lamb Banana has enjoyed a recent repaint. She's pink, for one month only, this wonderfully provocative hybrid seen by tens of thousands on one of the city's main arterial routes each week. Pink to promote National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I muse, as I look fondly at her, whether Super Lamb Banana is becoming the latest icon for our city. She certainly eclipses the nearby Yellow Submarine for public interest, which speaks of an era well-past now (though still a major lever for our lively tourist industry), she's something relevant in an era of anxiety over cloning, GM crops, food safety, etc, and she's a symbol of new things happening in a city gradually reinventing itself, with some creativity and thankfully quite a bit of wit as well.