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PETER LIVERSIDGE. Proposals for Barcelona (ENG)

Centro de Arte Santa Mónica, Barcelona, 2008

Saturday 14 February 2009, by Montse Badia

All the versions of this article: [English] [Español]

Peter Liversidge (Lincoln, UK, 1973) makes proposals. For the last ten years, the artist has been making proposals, which he has presented, amongst other places, at the Edinburgh Art Festival, at the Europalia Festival in Brussels or in the Unlimited section at the Art Basel Fair.

All his projects begin at the same starting point: a proposal consisting of the idea to write proposals. "I propose to write proposals for Montse Badia at the Centre d’Art Santa Mònica, Barcelona, during October 2007. Starting no sooner than the first of October and finishing no later than the thirty-first of October 2007". This was the beginning of the exhibition "Proposals for Barcelona" by Peter Liversidge in the Centre d’Art Santa Mònica.

Some of the eighty-eight proposals submitted by Peter Liversidge are utopical, others are impossible, others are poetical, others are of a practical nature and others are pure entertainment. From the absolute banal to transcendent, Liversidge’s proposals are more prescriptive than descriptive. Some of them have been performed and can be found materialised or documented at the exhibition iteself, others, on the other hand, open a space so that the spectator can interpret them as he may. Thus, in the Exhibition Hall we can find objects related to one of the proposals previously sent by Liversidge ("I propose to place on the floor of Gallery 2 at Centre d’Art Santa Monica a bronze cast of the two elastic bands I found outside my front door this morning. The elastic bands were the red type often dropped by postmen. They were laying on top of each other, and this is how they will appear in the gallery space"), graphic documentation of actions performed by the artist himself ("I propose to scatter Brittish wild-flower seeds in any broken ground in the city of Barcelona"), documentation of actions we’d all like to carry out ("I propose to use the telephones at Centre d’Art Santa Monica to phone everyone I know") or proposals that the spectator can be endowed with more significant connotations ("I propose to escape to the beach").

Peter Liversidge sent by normal post 88 proposals, which had been typed previously and of which only one original exists. But his debt to conceptual art does not only fulfill purely formal aspects. Liversidge’s proposals are not a revivial of conceptual art. His closeness to historic conceptual practices lies in his starting point, in his attitude. Liversidge carries out an institutional criticism, which isn’t always obvious, as more than actually denouncing or demonstrating certain mechanisms or specific mannerisms, the artist makes us ponder on a series of processes or assumed roles. Liversidge does not respond to the organiser’s invitation with one or two proposals for the exhibition, but with many proposals (sometimes twenty, sometimes eighty and sometimes almost two hundred), in such a way that he begins a process of discussion, of exchange of view-points, of decisions and also of shared responsibilities which convert the preparation of the work into a climax of intensity which hardly leaves any trace once the exhibition “materialises”.

However, institutional criticism is means not an end for Liversidge. With his proposals, the artist invites us to rethink the roles but also he makes us rethink nature and our immediate surroundings, at the same time whilst opening a world of possibilities. And he does all this not as much from grandiose gestures but from small, concise actions, on a very human scale but that can make our perception of things change radically.

Liversidge confronts us with different conceptions of nature using his representations (he makes molds of a stone he found using different materials, he exhibits a dissected bird, shows films taped at the Zoo, shows winter drawings or presents a floral tribute of a place idealised by the artist); he confronts us with the perception of surroundings (via light, smoke, songs or noises); he sets himself personal challenges (learn Spanish, correct mistakes, make plans…); he offers services (manage a restaurant in the city centre, be a wedding-photographer…) or he proposes difficult ways to change our environment (put spotlights on the bottom of cable-cars to project light-beams over the city).

With some proposals more or less concrete, others more or less ambitious, more or less visionary, Peter Liversidge invites us to think that it’s possible to have a bearing on our surroundings. Starting from the most daily aspects that define our biographies, the artist proofs that it’s possible to appeal to the imagination and to other possible worlds, he chooses sense of humour as a trigger to raise essential questions on the human being. Peter Liversidge’s proposals are not written scripts, but unlimited possibilities.

Montse Badia

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