Alicja Biala’s 'Merseyside Totemy' visualises statistics and figures related to the impact of climate change on the Liverpool City Region, one of the areas most at risk from rising sea levels caused by climate change Three colourful 4.5m totems will be unveiled next to the Liver Building in July 2022. The artwork is latest project commissioned by Liverpool Biennial in partnership with Liverpool BID Company.

Liverpool Biennial and Liverpool BID Company today announce a monumental new public artwork by artist Alicja Biala, addressing the urgent issue of the impact of climate change on Merseyside. The work will be on display at St Nicholas Place, Princes Dock from July 2022 and will remain in situ for two years.

The work, part of Biala’s Totemy series and formed of three totems, brings together statistics around climate change aiming to visualise the issues Merseyside faces in terms of rising sea levels and flooding by situating them using local examples.

Each totem will feature markers pointing to three areas of Merseyside threatened by rising sea levels: Liverpool City Centre, Formby and Birkenhead. Visitors will then be able to digitally interact with each totem to access information on the data that determines its proportions, gathered by the artist and researchers Jason Kirby and Timothy Lane from Liverpool John Moores University. The data represented shows what Merseyside will look like in the year 2080 if ice caps continue to melt and sea levels continue to rise at their current speed. Children in the region will be around retirement age in 2080, meaning that they will experience these effects of climate change within their lifetimes.

With data around climate change typically being presented to the public in an intangible and unrelatable way, Merseyside Totemy aims to strike a hopeful note with visitors. By acknowledging that the effects of climate change are already being felt, the conversation must shift towards the positive possibilities for mitigation and action, rather than prevention.

The totems will be produced at Castle Fine Arts Foundry Liverpool using materials that reference traditional shipbuilding, including painted and rusted mild steel, whilst the patterns on the work will be inspired by the architecture of the region. The plinths for the totems are based on stone filled gabion baskets that would usually be used to build sea defences and every material used in the creation of the work has been chosen to ensure maximum longevity and reusability. Further information on plans for the sustainable afterlife of the work will be revealed in due course.

As part of the project, global built environment consultancy Arup are supporting a series of workshops with the artist in schools located in areas that are likely to be most impacted by coastal changes. The workshops will look at climate change solutions through an innovative and optimistic lens, enabling students to learn how to represent their own data in exciting and engaging ways.

The artist is also working with local schools and the Liverpool Biennial Learning Team to create a ‘Climate Wish’ card game that will help young people to navigate difficult and often worrying conversations around climate change. In Summer 2022, the resource will be made available in school libraries across the Liverpool City Region and online to encourage everyone to make their own Climate Wish.

Sam Lackey, Director, Liverpool Biennial, said:

“We’re thrilled to be working with Liverpool BID Company again, bringing large-scale public artworks to the city and encouraging important discussions about the climate crisis.

With much of Merseyside set to feel the impact of rising sea levels within the next century, Biala’s work is strongly situated in the context of the local area, presenting important data in a way that can connect with everybody who passes by.

We hope that this new work will serve as a meeting point to spark ideas around what can be done to mitigate the effects of climate change across our region.”

Bill Addy, chief executive of the Liverpool BID Company, and chair of LVEN (Liverpool Visitor Economy Network), said:

“Public art has the power to transform our streets, squares and public places. Our commitment to supporting the presentation of art is a vital part of how we create a catalyst for future activity, how we make places more attractive and inviting to live, work, visit and explore.

I am excited to see this work in situ. It will bring a colourful and thought-provoking addition to our famous city-skyline. With the addition of a new sculpture on The Liverpool Plinth later this summer it will mean we are bringing two artists to this corner of the city. There is such an appetite for new art in the city and we’re delighted to be launching the summer with such a vibrant start.”

A limited edition etching by Alicja Biala will be unveiled to coincide with the outdoor installation of Merseyside Totemy. The artwork will be available at from Summer 2022.

Alicja Biala
Merseyside Totemy
Commissioned by Liverpool Biennial and Liverpool BID Company, with production supported by Arup and Castle Art Foundry.
Launching July 2022
St Nicholas Place
Princes Dock
L3 1QW
Free Entry
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