Koki Tanaka To Recreate 10,000-Strong Children’s Demonstration for Liverpool Biennial

The artist wants to bring the original protesters together.

Youth Training Scheme Protest, Liverpool, 25 April 1985. Photo courtesy of Dave Sinclair.

One school day in April 1985, thousands of children skipped class to hit the streets in protest of the Conservative government’s ineffective Youth Training Scheme (YTS), a botched attempt at redressing record lows in youth unemployment in the UK.

Japanese artist Koki Tanaka is heading to the 2016 Liverpool Biennial with a participatory performance piece that recreates the 10,000-person strike that took place in the city over 30 years ago. This June, the artist hopes to bring together as many of the original participants of the 1985 demonstration, as well as their children, for a walk that retraces the protest route.

In an interview with the Guardian, Tanaka said that he’s determined to reach out to as many of the original marchers as possible. “I wanted to see how these kids have grown up… [and] what they think about the present situation.” The artist plans on leading them from the St. George’s Hall to the Pier Head, and hopes to facilitate interviews between the protesters and their children.

Koki Tanaka. Courtesy of YouTube.

Koki Tanaka. Courtesy of YouTube.

Tanaka is known for taking an interest in individual and collective behavior. His video piece in the Japanese Pavilion at the 55th Venice Biennale, for instance, delved into the possibilities and challenges of collaboration through footage of five potters working on one piece of pottery. More recently, in his first major solo exhibition in Japan at Contemporary Art Gallery, Art Tower Mito, which opened last February and runs through this May, Tanaka offers up video works that document a six-day lodging experience of strangers living under one roof.

At the Liverpool Biennial, the United Kingdom’s largest contemporary art festival, Tanaka will be just one of 42 artists commissioned to install works throughout the city. An additional 10 associate artists working in the north of England will be featured in a special showcase. Participants hail from the UK, Australia, Belgium, China, France, Greece, Iran, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Lithuania, Palestine, Portugal, Russia, and Taiwan.

The Liverpool Biennial is on view at various sites across the city, July 9–October 16, 2016.

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