A few additions to yesterday's post on the Beatles: Alan's surname is Williams, and you can see his artwork here. Kevin Hunt also sent me a link to this page about the Beatles' homes across Liverpool, which clarifies a few things.

I promise I won't write about the Beatles any more, though they do have a habit of creeping up in conversation. I was in the pub last night having a huge conversation about the Beatles with Dan, when we both suddenly realised that neither of us either a) cared about the Beatles or b) knew very much about them.

This is Superlambanana.

It is a piece of public sculpture, designed by Taro Chiezo, commissioned for the Art Transpennine Exhibition of 1998. It is seventeen feet high, and made of concrete and steel. I found all that information at the Superlambanana fansite.

The site promotes products related to Superlambanana, mainly mini-replicas, including this Beatles design...

Tasteful no?

Anyway, I'm getting ahead of myself really. The reason that there are products to buy, and people who would buy them, is because in 2008, a project called Go Superlambananas was launched by the public art production company Wild in Art as part of the Liverpool's year as the European Capital of Culture.

This is from the website.

"For ten weeks during this summer, hundreds of thousands of tourists, visitors and residents had fun exploring the city and discovering 125 Superlambananas, beautifully created by artists and communities from Liverpool." 

And I must also say that most of the information I have about this is from a piece of writing by Penny and Dan called Mutiny on the Periphery, which is published in Culture and Agency, Contemporary Culture and Urban Change, ed. Monica Degen and Malcolm Miles, University of Plymouth Press, 2010.

So basically, a load of fibreglass copies of Superlambanana were placed around the city, artists were paid to decorate them, and companies sponsored them, and were allowed to wrap them in company colours. They formed a sort of trail around the city, and people would walk around the city 'discovering' the mini-superlambananas in different situations.

Most of them were auctioned off - with a lot of the money going to local charities, but a not insubstantial chunk going back to the organisers, Wild in Art. Wild in Art are not a charity, and, I presume, were already paid for the production and management of the superlambananas.

Wild in Art have produced and managed several other events along the same lines as Go Superlambanas. Including Go Elephants in Norwich, another event in Merseyside called Go Penguins, and my personal favourite, a project with pigs in Lalin, Spain, called, Lalin Pork Art.

Here is another quote from the Wild in Art website, about the Go Penguins project.

"Liverpool’s Go Penguins event was a huge success, with over 500,000 people visiting the trail over the ten weeks, plus a further 4,000 more coming to bid a fond farewell to their beloved penguins at the special auction preview at St George’s Hall. Generating a whopping £5.6 million in media stories, the event enjoyed incredible celebrity support, with Paul O’Grady, Johnny Vegas, Graeme Le Saux, the cast of Hollyoaks and Liverpool legend Ken Dodd among those getting behind the event."

There are a few things I don't like about that statement. Firstly, when did getting Graeme Le Saux and Ken Dodd involved in a piece of public art ever make it successful? Secondly, what does '£5.6 million in media stories' mean? Those figures, at best, are invented, the worth of the project to the city is overblown, and the idea of parades of fibreglass animals being distributed around a city for seemingly no reason is presented as an intrinsically good thing.

Superlambanana was not a brilliant piece of art, but it did have a critical function - it was designed as a comment on the genetic modification of food (lamb-banana, fish-tomato). The Go Superlambananas 'event', and the other replicated Go events have no such critical basis. Wild in Art have taken a piece of art and turned it in to a palatable piece of marketing.

Ironically, the Go Superlambanas have become an unofficial, and unlikely, icon of the city. A few of them were 'generously donated' to local charities or community groups by Wild in Art (a direct quote from the website - by generously donated I assume they mean paid for by the local council and centralised government funding), so some of them are hanging about, generating publicity for the company who were paid to make them.

Liverpool council must have bought one for Liverpool Parkway (which I wrote about yesterday - sort of a fancy bus shelter-cum-train station for people travelling from the airport to the city).

I suppose I did take a picture, but hopefully it won't become part of Wild in Art's perpetual marketing cycle.

Later on, we were in a take away, and I noticed this.

I did actually have that deal. I also bought some chips, but I'm not sure how relevant that is.

I suppose all this sounds a bit curmudgeonly (I always wonder where that word comes from, is the curmudgeon a medieval grumbling bird?). I'm not trying to shit on the superlambananas, or their adoption by the people of the city as a mascot. It just seems unfortunate that the way the 'events' were managed benefited Wild in Art - a private company - in real, monetary terms, way more than they benefited the city, despite all the talk of 'media value'.