Thursday, 31 January 2008

Crapital of Culture

As the great Raymond Williams once said, "culture is ordinary." And nowhere is it more ordinary than in Liverpool.

I'm not really certain what I expected of The European Capital of Culture 2008. Maybe I thought it'd be like ancient Greece. Or Venice during the Renaissance. Maybe they'd pressed a button and transformed Merseyside into fin de siecle Vienna or something. Anyway, having had most of yesterday to myself and having arranged to go to a gig in Liverpool that evening, I decided to immerse myself in all this new-found (whoo-hoo!) culture.

Ah, yes. Culture. Culture. CULTURE! Look at it! It's everywhere! Why, the very streets are paved with poetry, I tell you. The skyline flickers in a heat-haze of pure inspiration. Look, damn you! There's culture in them there streets. Culture! And it is wrought and hewn upon the very souls of every man, woman and child therein. Oh, Liverpool! Thou art a furnace of art and intellect, smelting our dreams and desires in the foundry of your heart. Let us inside Liverpool! Let us in! We beg you! Show us our new dawn!

What a load of fucking bollocks.

As far as I can see, Liverpool's Capital of Culture status is being mediated by just three things:


And none of these things are very promising. For a start, Liverpool now boasts two of the worst galleries in the country: Bold Street (which is the new Portobello Road according to this provincial bell-end) store Microzine and the Wood Street gallery/cinema/thing, FACT.

The former is actually just a clothes shop (see I told you it was shit). But it purports to be a bar and a gallery as well. If you like sitting in a cold shop window and drinking shit wine whilst surrounded by scallies buying fluorescent trainers and tracksuits, it's a godsend. Whilst upstairs you can buy paintings by the "artist" Dave White who I assume is either very young or profoundly disabled, since he only paints Star Wars characters and shoes, but hey... Back downstairs is more designer sportswear and - what's this? - oh, it's irony. No, hang on. It's nostalgia. Or is it irony? No... It's a 1:300 scale Airfix model of the Ark Royal and an oversized plastic duck and some shot-glasses. Oh, and a baby-pink J Lindeberg polo-shirt for £75.
Make no mistake: this is a place is for unremitting dickheads.

So. Back up Bold Street (the Portobello Road of the North, remember) and off to the right is FACT. This is Liverpool's "creative quarter." It's also where a great many tramps like to sculk and wee. Urban Splash indeed -get here in the morning and there's rivers of it. Want a £500,000 luxury apartment in the most up-and-coming area of the city? Enjoy tip-toeing through faeces and stepping over junkies? Then Liverpool's Rope Walks is the area for you!

Anyway, FACT is the Foundation for Art and Creative Technology. I actually don't know what that means. Often, I don't know if FACT's curators know either. What is "creative technolgy"? A Mac laptop? A word-processor? Yes! So what's the difference between a laptop and say, a pencil? Pencil's are old-hat you philistine! Mac's are sexy! Well, yeah. So, is FACT a gallery for CGI or electronic music? Erm, no. FACT is a gallery for marginal installation art that happens to utilise this technology. For example, I once saw a video loop of a Mac desktop crashing - just an infinite cycle of error-messages popping up and up and up and up. Fucking yawn... Next week there's a show of some kind of kinetic sculpture with bits of skin in it or something... Yawn again, John...

So, pretentious shopping, pointless art and lots and lots of tramps pissing in the streets. Is that the best you've got, Liverpool? Get yer finger out, soft lad! This could be, should be ace. And yes: culture is ordinary. It's a normal, natural phenomena. Culture shouldn't need a festival to bring it to life. We've fetishized culture to the point we're now paranoid about it. So much so that we now put banal events into museums. That's right Liverpool, you heard me right. I said "banal". Not ordinary. Not normal. All the new shops, the office blocks, the forthcoming exhibitions and concerts are all mind-bendingly banal.

Please stop trying so hard. You really don't have anything to worry about.

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