liverpool biennial independents 2004

Independent Districtindependent dist Georgian Quartergeorgian quarter City Centralcity central Docklandsdocklands Artistsartists

Archived 2008, another new folder

  Feeding the 5000  

Feed the 5000
Biennial opening night
Independent District


  Dave White, Liverpool Biennial 2004  

Dave White
Independent District
Liverpool Biennial 2004


  Gillian Davis, Babycream  

Gillian Davis
Liverpool Biennial 2004


  One of Daisy Delaney's 'Thousand Windmills'  

Daisy Delaney
A thousand windmills
Liverpool Biennial 2004


  The Transparent Eyeball  

White Diamond
The Transparent Eyeball
Liverpool Biennial 2004


  Detail from Scott Jones's album cover for Deltasonic's The Zutons  

Scott Jones
Liverpool Biennial 2004

  Transparent Eyeball

Michael Connor

Transparent Eyeball

Independent District

55 New Bird Street



The story begins with Houston, Texas.

Houston thinks big. This is the city that in 1965 opened an indoor 40,000-seat stadium, the Astrodome, with an air conditioning system that moves 2.5 million cubic feet of air per minute, and a lighting system that uses more power than a city of 9,000 people. This is a city with twice as many lane miles of freeway as Los Angeles, and the home of Enron, whose wheeling and dealing led to the collapse of the entire California electricity market in May of 2000.

In 2001 and 2002, while living in Austin, Texas, I made a series of visits to Houston, and developed a weird affection for the place in all its megalomania. Fittingly, it was during one of these visits that I came across Lewis Mumford's The Pentagon of Power (1974) in 1/4 Price Books, a used bookshop in the Montrose neighborhood. This influential book argued, among other things, that humankind¹s urban culture is a contemporary manifestation of the ancient cult of sun worship. For evidence, Mumford provides a series of photographs of 60s contemporary technology and pharaonic modernist architecture that evoke connections with ancient pyramids and temples. The argument was compelling, but Mumford¹s take on modern cities was decidedly fatalistic. He believed that hypercapitalist urban centres would inevitably devolve from metropolis to megalopolis to Necropolis; later in his life, he took up the cause of the idyllic, centrally-planned 'Garden City', the kind of place where everyone can own a house and walk to work. Spare me the boredom.

It was around the same time that I happened to unearth a copy of Scott Thomas' Architecture of the Petroleum Age (c.1975). Like Mumford, Thomas sensed a religiosity in the secular buildings of 1970s capitalism - though in his case, he traced its origins to a spiritual reverence for oil. Thomas expresses an optimism about this spiritualism, an optimism that seems to stem from an belief that the Petroleum Age was in its last days. Throughout the film, Thomas' point of view shifts between contemporary architecture critic and an archaeologist looking back at the city as a record of a failed civilization. Although Thomas thought the end of petro-capitalism was near, he looked to its end with hope and eager anticipation.

The urge to eulogize the petroleum age also characterizes Gerard Holthuis' live narration of Hong Kong (HKG) tapes (1998-2002), in which he laments the 1998 closure of the Kai Tak airport in Hong Kong. For years, the Kai Tak airport¹s flight paths had forced pilots to make daredevil hairpin turns not far from the city¹s tallest buildings. Long-lens shots of planes flying through the metropolis in slow motion become part of the fabric of Holthuis' engaging personal narrative, as he weaves a romance of internal combustion and international travel, while the geopolitical consequences of flight and the September 11 subtext are left blithely to one side.

Saki Satom's video work occupies a similar space between celebration and critique. M Station Run (1997-8), which shows zombielike businesspeople running en masse between trains on a subway, could be seen as an illustration of Mumford's necropolis thesis. And yet this is re-framed by two further works, interventions into featureless (yet
emblematic/metonymic) spaces of the fast-paced Tokyo economy. In From B to H, Satom's conceptually precise action transforms an office lift into a private ballet studio. In Giving, the artist gives out single flowers to strangers on a crowded subway platform, unthinking, repetitive. Yet when the tape is played in reverse, a moment of synchronized generosity is revealed: stranger after stranger approaches the artist, handing her a flower.

Even while rebutting Mumford's fatalism, each of these works betrays a sense that they share his perception that technological society is riddled with tension and fear. The quest for sincerity and optimism, in itself, may tell us more about tension and fear than we could learn by making a more direct inquiry into the subjects. By making the attempt to dispatch cynicism, the artists do highlight the existence of cynicism; yet the attempt itself is anything but cynical. Perhaps, through all the darkness of the contemporary moment, there is reason to be cautiously optimistic.


Artists represented at White Diamond:

Cory Arcangel
Peter Coffin
Ara Peterson
Paper Rad
Lauren Cornell
Astria Suparak
Kendra Gaeta
Michael Connor
Meredith Danluck
Amy Globus

Jeremy Laing
Will Munro
Rohesia Hamilton
Chadwick Rantanen
Seth Price
Scott Thomas
Gerard Holthuis
Saki Satom
Paul Slocum
Kent Lambert
Rebekah Rutkoff
Kelly Oliver
Abbey Williams
Andrew Jeffrey Wright
Clare Rojas
Bryan Boyce
Dara Greenwald
Jim Finn


Archived February 2008, another new folder