Originally established in 1998 by James Moores as a charitable organisation devoted to championing contemporary art, it is perhaps one of the few examples where the idea that art could act as a driver for regeneration in a city that had lost its traditional industries has not become a farcical exercise in attempting to crowbar the practice of artists into the local political agendas or serving as some kind of illustrative proof of questionable social policies. On the contrary, The A Foundation has quietly got on with sticking to its core principles and bringing a programme of activities and exhibitions to the city that has steadily grown in both quality and international visibility.
As this year’ Liverpool Biennial kicks off, The A Foundation once again offers a stimulating programme for the local and visiting audiences alike.
Continuing with its growing reputation for showcasing the best in emerging performance art, this year sees two solo projects with two very different artists whose work in the field of performance loosely shares a connection through the idea that the audience becomes part of a feedback loop between the artist and those who observe their actions.
Japanese artist Sachiko Abe will rework he ‘Cut Papers’ that sees her exploring her themes of duration, repetition and constraints – what is sometimes referred to as ‘endurance performance art’- in The Furnace Gallery. Sharing an intimate and aesthetically arranged space, the audience is offered an experience in which only the incessant sound of Abe’s scissors snipping away at paper marks the passing of time.
Simultaneously the Finnish artist Antti Laitinen will present a survey of key works that elaborate the weird and wonderful world of his often-absurd performances in which the drive for some kind of authenticity in action is almost always enacted in a location where the landscape becomes, if not the answer, then some kind of well-phrased question. Primal, silly and poetic, Laitinen’s work is a masterclass in how an artist with focussed intention can make mesmerising viewing out of very little. The centrepiece of the exhibition will be a new work commissioned for the biennial. In ‘Bark’ Laitinen will use the gallery effectively as a workshop to construct a boat from ancient bark collected from the floor of a Finnish forest. He will subsequently use this vessel to make a maiden voyage across the Mersey.
Whether this particular ferry across the Mersey is inspired by Bas Jan Ader’s ultimate performance work involving a boat only remains to be seen.
Simultaneous to these two solos, The A Foundation will also open the Liverpool leg of New Contemporaries 2010. This visual arts award sponsored by Bloomberg has grown into one of the key UK markers for young talent on their way to artistic maturity. This year’s selectors are Gabriel Kuri, Mark Leckey and Dawn Mellor.