An artwork listing the names of dead migrants was destroyed at the Liverpool Biennial.
A version of The List, a project of the nonprofit UNITED for Intercultural Action that has been adapted and translated into different languages and contexts by the Turkish artist Banu Cennetoğlu, has been destroyed at the Liverpool Biennial. The work consists of a list compiled and updated annually of all the refugees and migrants who have died trying to reach Europe since 1993. The version that disappeared from the Biennial, which featuring at last count the names of 34,361 migrants, was printed out and installed on a construction site wall on Liverpool’s Great George Street until it disappeared on Sunday. The developer in charge of the construction project has granted permission for the use of its temporary wall for the project, and said it was reviewing security footage of the site.
“It is timely and important to make The List public during a global refugee crisis,” the Liverpool Biennial’s organizers said in a statement. “We were dismayed to see it had been removed on Saturday night and would like to know why. The List has been met with critical acclaim and we are doing everything we can to reinstate it.” The Guardian publishedThe List as a supplement on June 20 of this year, in observance of World Refugee Day.
“Governments don’t keep these records for the public; they don’t want the public to see these records because it exposes their policies,” Cennetoğlu said of the project. “So you have NGOs trying to put the data together, and that data is incomplete and fragile, but there again someone has to do it. And I want to contribute to that with what I have and what I do—but not by aestheticising it. You cannot represent this kind of darkness through art.”
This year’s edition of the Liverpool Biennial—which launched in 1999 and is the UK’s largest recurring visual art festival—opened on July 14 and is due to run through October 28. It is not the only such exhibition to publicly and provocatively engage with the migrant crisis: a piece created by the US-Nigerian artist Olu Oguibe for last year’s Documenta in Kassel, Germany, Monument for Strangers and Refugees (2017), became a target for right-wing politicians when the city’s municipal government announced plans to acquire it and make it permanent.