Made Up

David Blandy, Tracey Moffatt, Khalil Rabah, The Royal Art Lodge and Sarah Sze
The Bluecoat, School Lane
20th September – 30th November 2008

Reviewed by Megan Agnew

The newly renovated Bluecoat gallery plays host to Made Up, the fifth edition of Liverpool Biennial’s International Exhibition and an exploration of the limitless power of the human imagination. Locally meaning ‘happy’ or ‘pleased’, the title ‘Made Up’ also extends to the dreamlike transportation and transformation that the imagination can conjure. The imagined finds itself a space for becoming a reality and what follows is a journey into the emotions behind human invention.

American artist David Blandy considers the difference between the real and the fabricated as he confronts his own personal issues with mass popular culture. Assuming the persona of the Barefoot Lone Pilgrim, Blandy questions how much the self is formed by the mass media and if there is any identity outside it. He conveys his own feeling of displacement in the studies of Mingering Mike: a fictional character who invents a new identity, re-imagining himself as a soul superstar. Through mixed media, performance and an injection of humour, Blandy investigates authenticity as the two creations collide on his own voyage of self-discovery.

Khalil Rabah’s work explores issues affecting Palestinian identity and the difficulties he perceives in overcoming them. In 1995 Rabah planted olive trees originally from his native Palestine outside the United Nations in Geneva, as symbols of peace. He recently learnt that all but one tree has been removed from the area and his Botanical Department of the Palestinian Museum of Natural History & Humankind asks that the trees be granted Swiss citizenship in order to remain. The instillation represents a legal investigation into the whereabouts of the missing trees, evidence of the case is systematically set out as Rabah combines fact and fiction. He creates an area that echoes the absence of both the trees and truth, which is eerily hidden away in between the collected data we observe.

Work by Tracey Moffatt portrays a fusion of fantasy and reality and the viewer wonders where one ends and the other begins. Her candy coloured paintings First Jobs are a retrospect of the dreary jobs she worked at in sixties and seventies Australia. The acid colours pull away from the dullness of the work, suggesting that no matter how mundane the situation, imagination can travel beyond. Her second piece attacks the artificiality so potent in First Jobs; ‘Doomed’ (2007) is a video made in collaboration with Gary Hillberg detailing every catastrophe imaginable. Featuring a collage of clips from disaster films and a throbbing soundtrack, the video hauntingly displaces the sense of a determinate emotion.

Sarah Sze’s ambitious installation hangs in what is essentially a hole in the gallery – a large void now filled with pieces of discrete information. Sze assembles magnificently intricate landscapes from everyday objects – Lego bricks, buttons, pieces of wood, nothing is left out – in what ends up as an almost natural animation. Standing looking at the piece is an extremely calming experience, whether you see it as a collective animated ‘being’, or smaller, inanimate objects.

The imagined presences of these works push for a leap into the unknown power of imagination, moving the viewer into an unfamiliar space where new possibilities can develop. The exhibition is both thought provoking and life affirming, bringing emotion and invention to the forefront of the enquiring mind.

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