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Aug 03 2018

Banu Cennetoğlu’s Work Removed from the Liverpool Biennial

by Phoebe Tam

BANU CENNETOĞLU‘s The List (2007– ) was removed from the 2018 Liverpool Biennial on July 28. The perpetrator has yet to be identified. Image via Liverpool Biennial’s Twitter.

On July 28, Banu Cennetoğlu’s contribution to the 2018 Liverpool Biennial, The List (2007– ), was ripped off from hoardings around a construction site on Great George Street, where it had been on display since the art festival’s opening on July 14. The perpetrator behind the work’s destruction remains a mystery. 

The List features the names of the 34,361 people who lost their lives in the process of seeking refuge from Europe from 1993 to mid-2018. The project draws from the documentation of refugee, asylum seeker and migrant deaths attributed to the “Fortress Europe” policy, compiled by UNITED Against Refugee Deaths, a Europe-based network of organizations. Since 2007, Cennetoğlu has been working on the distribution of the document in various public venues, including at public transit hubs, billboards and in print on newspapers, to maximize the visibility of the refugee crisis. 

The artist and Liverpool Biennial had been given permission by the developers of the construction site to put up the posters. Responding to The Guardian, the city council’s spokesperson expressed that he was certain local authorities were not responsible for the removal, and that they have been looking through surveillance footage in search of the culprit. 

“It is timely and important to make The List public during a global refugee crisis,” the director of Liverpool Biennial, Sally Tallant, said in a statement to Frieze. “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 re-instate it, once we better understand why it has been removed.”

The work has been shown in Bulgaria, Germany, Greece, Italy, Switzerland, Turkey, the United States and the United Kingdom. On World Refugee Day 2018, The List appeared on both the print and online editions of The Guardian. In an interview with The Atlantic, Cennetoğlu explained her motivation in compiling The List: “People have very short attention spans. Sometimes they only read things reduced to one line on the front page of a newspaper. Sometimes it’s manipulated or a half conceit. I think when you see the scale of this, when you can hold it in your hand, it’s overwhelming.” 

The latest iteration of the work was produced with the help of Liverpool Biennial and London’s Chisenhale Gallery. As an extension of the project, Cennetoğlu’s solo exhibition at Chisenhale Gallery explores the responsibilities that recording experiences of life and death entail, and the limitations in her attempt to capture loss. It will be on view until August 26, 2018.

Phoebe Tam is an editorial intern of ArtAsiaPacific.

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