<-- Google Analytics START --> <-- Google Analytics END -->

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

    Tuesday, September 21, 2004
    Too much the Biennial bus
    They decided that Martha Rosler should lecture to us about her work not in a dusty hall or a gleaming gallery space but on a bus circling the city centre. Novel. Fits with her position as an artist very engaged with the life of the world, social, political, on-the-road. And with her Biennial project, Liverpool Delving and Driving, where she takes punters on a bus trip around town pointing out the places which, with close interrogation, reveal Liverpool's underground, forbidden, forgotten histories - the slaves, the Irish, and so on.

    Tonight's lecture-tour was a little frustrating, with all the usual careless organisation one comes to expect from the arts: unapologetically half-hour-late, no introductions or clarifications by the hosts, bemused punters, tired artist unsure what she was expected to say, a mystery tour without the magic. But it served as a decent introduction to Rosler's work; it was worth the ride for the background it provided to Delving and Driving. It became very clear that Rosler is committed to exposing the undercurrents of contemporary life through the lenses of those most in danger of drowning in them - the homeless, exploited women, travellers and other vulnerable people. I'll appreciate her delving and driving through Liverpool's story for sure.

    But - note to potential left-field lecture organisers: don't put a lecture on a bus and expect people's full attention. The city's stories keep unfolding as the roads rolls on. Tonight Martha stopped the coach at a major junction to take pictures of a police - stolen car swoop, and again outside the Princes Road Synagaogue to pass around honey cake (yum) in celebration of Jewish New Year; the bloke next to me kept interrupting my concentration on Martha's words (I didn't much mind) by pointing out various buildings he'd recently visited on the city's heritage weekend; my eyes got caught up in the lights of the city as darkness fell, fascinated by the new build all over the place and the old sights: gaggles of late-drinking office staff, early-eating theatre-goers, the occasional late-working traffic warden, rough-looking men killing time before the hostels opened.

    In Roadworks Rosler writes, "The constant renewal of the surface gloss of objects and images eschews the laborious work of construction demanded by that most concrete and fatal of metaphors, the road itself. Together, the glossy and the stolid are the orb and the scepter of the present kingdom of desire." Yup, heard it all and saw it all on that bus tonight.