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Will Kwan creates wall of burning flags at Scandinavian Hotel for Liverpool Biennial

Laura Davis | Liverpool Daily Post | 1 September 2010

One of Liverpool’s most prominent disused buildings has been covered in a wall of burning flags for the city’s Biennial arts festival.

Hong Kong-born artist Will Kwan has created an installation of 36 banners made from news agency photographs of flag burning protest around the world.

They hang on the front of the Scandinavian Hotel, next to Liverpool’s Chinese Arch.

Lorenzo Fusi, Biennial curator, said the art work can be read on many levels, depending on where you are viewing it.

He said: “The idea is that from a distance it will appear to be a very cosmopolitan building that is all-accepting of different nations.

“When you get closer to it, you can see the flames on the flags and closer still you realise they are photographs taken of flags actually being burnt at different times in history at different places in the world.”

Images used for the art work, called Flame Test, have been taken from the archives of Associated Press, Reuters, Agence France Presse and other news agencies.

It aims to remind us of how the representations of our most potent symbolic acts of protest, resistance and dissent are reconfigured by the media.

The Scandinavian Hotel, which has been closed since the 1980s, will be open to visitors throughout the Biennial for screenings of a series of video art.

Spanish artist Cristina Lucas’s film, Touch and Go, features local people who used to work in now redundant industries.

Alfredo Jaar, from Chile, has created a three-channel work, We Wish to Inform You that We Didn’t Know, in response to the world’s indifference to genocide.

Other abandoned locations that will feature in the Biennial include the former Rapid Hardware building, on Renshaw Street, which will be taken over by international artists.

Rapid Hardware moved to the former John Lewis building on Basnett Street, in August, 2009, and the Renshaw Street building was bought by Liverpool One developer Grosvenor later the same month.

In January, the Daily Post revealed Downing Developments and Liverpool City Council had abandoned plans to renovate the Scandinavian Hotel, which has been empty since the 1980s.

Liverpool Biennial International Festival of Contemporary Art was founded by James Moores in 1998, and is presented free to the public every two years over a 10-week period.

It runs from September 18 to November 28.

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