Personal and public identity is a central issue in Werner Kaligofsky’s work.

In 2001 in the Galerie im Taxispalais, Innsbruck, Tyrol, he juxtaposed photographs and live film footage of streets and squares in Innsbruck with text detailing the biographies of the opponents and victims of National Socialism after whom the streets are named.

For his Liverpool piece for International 04, Kaligofsky asked to be led by a person who had lived in the city in the past, moved away and then returned, and a person who had recently moved here. He sought difference in ethnicity, gender, profession, age and class-symbols of identity that can easily be reduced to stereotypes. The first guide (‘departed returned’), Brian Hatton, came from a working-class family in Widnes and is an art historian living in London who returns to Liverpool to teach. The second guide (‘newly arrived’), Kwan May Ling, was born in Hong Kong, and is an art student who also runs her family home in Birkenhead.

The guides’ perspectives on the city focused upon very different themes: Hatton showed Kaligofsky historic buildings and critiqued town planning decisions, while May Ling reflected on places with atmosphere, places that inspire her artwork or remind her of ‘home’, and places where she shops for food.

Exploring his position as a self-conscious ‘outsider’ to Liverpool, the Vienna-based artist used this as the starting point for his work. Prospective artists for International 04 were invited to the city to conduct preliminary research. Fascinated by his ‘guest’ status, Kaligofsky produced a set of photographic images that documented his journeys around the city and the surrounding areas, led by two guides. His work called attention to the role of personal and subjective histories in shaping the ways in which individuals see, understand and talk about the world around us.

Within this process, Kaligofsky insisted that although he used the methods of documentary photography, his work did not attempt to rationalise objectively the subjective experience presented to him by his guides. In clarifying his position he turned to Lacanian ideas, stating that ‘an image is like a screen between the gaze and the subject of representation, and vice versa’. While he had tried to record the views of his guides as accurately as possible, his photographs were ultimately interpretative. They were his way of making sense of the information that was presented to him in Liverpool. A tension was established, then, between the subjectivity of the guides and the guest and the photographic objects themselves.

The Departed Returned, the Newly Arrived and the Guest,
Photographic series
Commissioned by Liverpool Biennial 2004
Exhibited at Tate Liverpool



Austrian Cultural Forum