Every year on the 15th of May, International Day Of Families highlights the importance of families as a major function of our society and reflects the concerns that different families all over the world may encounter. Now more than ever it feels crucial to celebrate our loved ones. Many have been spending more time together, and others apart, which can be difficult to digest.

While we continue through our Digging The Archive! series, staff at Liverpool Biennial have once again delved into their vaults to provide us with some photos which recognise the importance of family in our local communities.

Fatoş Üstek, Artistic Director of Liverpool Biennial: 

“Family can mean a lot of different things to different people, from close relations to a wide network of friends, the notion of family denotes strong ties that are inherent in everyone’s lives, even for the people who are not born into an immediate family. Across cultures and continents family can be interpreted from the closest personal viewpoint to the global, the concept constantly evolving and developing and yet as concrete as Liverpool One. The International Day of Families celebration promotes awareness of issues relating to families across the world, to increase the knowledge of the social, economic and demographic processes affecting them. On 2020’s International Day of Families we enjoy the opportunity to look back through Liverpool Biennial’s archives to explore projects and artworks which have engaged with, celebrated and supported families in our local area.”


Arriva City Buses, 2016: Three double-decker buses were transformed by artists and children in a major new commission by Liverpool Biennial and Arriva North West. The buses drove on routes through the City Centre, South Liverpool, North Liverpool and the Wirral.

Designed by Year 7 pupils from Childwall Sports & Science Academy, in collaboration with artists and designers Hato, a Space Bus called Hello Future Me contained coded messages to the future citizens of Liverpool, spelled out in an alphabet of newly invented symbols that drew inspiration from imagined futures. It paid homage to the tradition of sending messages into outer space, in the hope that extra-terrestrial beings will be able to understand more about human civilisation.

Ana Jotta’s bus was disguised as a huge, solid brick wall. The pattern was reminiscent of the brick buildings the artist saw when she came to Liverpool for the first time.

Frances Disley’s Blaze was inspired by the success story of Liverpool-born Eunice Huthart, the only contestant on 1990s TV action game-show Gladiators to become a ‘Gladiator’ herself. Blaze depicted the artist as a painted character with the power to blend into her own artwork.


Mohamed Bourouissa – Resilience Garden, 2018: Paris based artist Mohamed Bourouissa’s artistic practice utilises images, installations and video to explore power relations, displays of masculinity and societal tensions. With a strong collaborative sensibility, Bourouissa embeds himself within the community, examining how society is structured and how social processes are activated.

For the most recent Liverpool Biennial back in 2018, Mohamed Bourouissa created a garden in Granby, Toxteth by working with local people, families, gardeners, school pupils, teachers and artists. The artist was inspired by a garden made by a patient of the psychoanalyst and writer Frantz Fanon at the Blida-Joinville Psychiatric Hospital in Blida, Algeria. Fanon’s patient created the garden as occupational therapy, reflecting the organisation of his mental space through its structure. Bourouissa researched and learnt the patient’s approach to botany, architecture and therapy in order to create a similar garden in Liverpool. The garden in Toxteth was conceived as a space of ‘resilience’. Some of the plants are native to Algeria and others have healing effects.

A gardening club was run throughout the Biennial working with local families and young people, learning collaboratively how to tend to the garden and keep it thriving. The garden has been gifted to a local school to continue embedding itself within the local community, supporting families and young people to work and learn together.


Ryan Gander with Jamie Clark, Phoebe Edwards, Tianna Mehta, Maisie Williams and Joshua Yates – Time Moves Quickly, 2018: Ryan Gander is a UK based artist, born locally in Chester and now living in London. In 2017 Gander received an OBE for services to contemporary art. Through associative thought processes that connect the everyday and the esoteric, his artworks materialise in many different forms: from sculpture to film, writing, graphic design, installation and performance. Gander’s work involves a questioning of language and knowledge, a reinvention of the modes of appearance and creation of an artwork.

Time Moves Quickly was a major new project by Gander who worked collaboratively with five children from Knotty Ash Primary School in Liverpool – Jamie Clark, Phoebe Edwards, Tianna Mehta, Maisie Williams and Joshua Yates – to produce a series of artworks and a film which explored the activities carried out in the workshops. The project took inspiration from the Montessori method of education, based on self-directed activity, hands-on learning and collaborative play.

The artworks were presented at The Bluecoat in Liverpool city centre, alongside a new public artwork for the city, five bench-like sculptures which were located on the plateau behind the Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral. For the new commission, Gander dissected a model of architect Frederick Gibberd’s modernist cathedral into a series of simple ‘building blocks’. The blocks were then reassembled into different configurations by the children. The maquettes that Gander and the children created were reproduced on a much larger scale to produce a new public seating arrangement within the cathedral grounds that families and the public were able to physically interact with, from climbing and playing, to sitting and contemplating.


Monster Chetwynd – Dogsy Ma Bone, 2016: Monster Chetwynd is a British artist who lives in Glasgow. Chetwynd’s practice intertwines performance, sculpture, painting, installation and video. Her work incorporates elements of folk plays, street spectacles, popular culture and Surrealist cinema. Her performances and videos often employ the artists own family and friends as performers and feature handmade costumes and props. Chetwynd has performed and exhibited internationally and was shortlisted for the Turner Prize in 2012.

During 2016, Chetwynd collaborated closely with local families through workshops and live performances working with 34 children and 44 teenagers from across Liverpool to make the film Dogsy Ma Bone, using the city as a backdrop to the action. Presented at Cains Brewery, the film was inspired by Betty Boop’s A Song A Day (1936), in which Betty sings to exotic animals in a hospital she owns, and Bertolt Brecht’s satirical musical Threepenny Opera (1928).

The families were involved with the whole process from filming, performing to even recording an album of songs from the performance!


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