Letter from Liverpool

Sixth Biennial opens on Merseyside.

Sign Up

Get the New Statesman's Morning Call email.

This sixth edition of the Liverpool Biennial of Art is a quieter, more chastened affair than usual, though it does have plenty of political edge. Driven by fury at the bankers who have nearly brought the national economy to its knees, and with the arts facing drastic cuts in funding, director Lewis Biggs has insisted that all work should have a holistic impact, on mind, body and spirit, hence the theme of "Touched". The subtext of this Biennial is "enjoy it while you can".

Daniel Hlobo's "Ndize" at the Bluecoat Arts Centre is a delightful and evocative sensory experience that takes you somewhere completely different, though much of the best work is in non-gallery spaces. In Renshaw Street, Ryan Trecartin's trilogy of videos stand out. Parodying high-energy youth-orientated reality TV, it is a kind of Korean Little Britain, riveting and dense..

Works by Alfredo Jaar and Cristina Lucas in the old Europleasure building gain by their proximity. Lucas has produced "Touch and Go"; an elegiac film in which trade unionists and their families vandalise a now derelict building that once housed a European company. In a gleeful expression of frustration at market failure, individuals enjoy throwing stones through its windows, the camera lingering symbolically on the shattering glass.

In "We wish to inform you that we didn't know", Jaar replays footage of Bill Clinton apologising to a Rwandan audience for not acting more quickly and decisively during the 1994 genocide and appearing to acknowledge that he had not fully understood the gravity of the situation. This is followed with testimony from three survivors of the genocide. It's a compelling piece.

Elsewhere Sachiko Abe is performing "Cut Papers" at the A Foundation space. To say more will spoil its surprise, but it's a must see. And finally, this year's John Moores exhibition is all about painting. For the first time in years, the organisers have managed to assemble a decent collection of artists at the top of their game demonstrating the sheer range of the medium. A joy.