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Liverpool Biennial Artwork Featuring Names of Thousands of Dead Refugees Is Destroyed

LIVERPOOL, ENGLANDThe List, an artwork that features the names of 34,361 refugees and migrants who lost their lives while trying to reach Europe, was destroyed in Liverpool on Saturday, July 28. The piece was installed as part of the Liverpool Biennial, which kicked off on July 14 and will run through October 28.

“It is timely and important to make The List public during a global refugee crisis,” the Liverpool Biennial 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.”

While some people thought that the work’s removal was accidental, according to The Guardian a spokesperson for the city council assured the publication that it had not been taken down by anyone employed by the city. With little information to go on, the exhibition’s organizers have taken to social media to investigate the incident. On Twitter, the Liverpool Biennial asked for anyone with knowledge related to the work’s disappearance to come forward.

Double Negative, a contemporary arts zine, responded to the tweet, saying that witnesses had seen people in suits tearing the piece down last week. It had been installed on hoardings surrounding a building site on Great George Street in Liverpool’s Chinatown district. The biennial confirmed that it had received permission to display the work at the location and that the developers who own the site are attempting to find out what happened by reviewing CCTV footage of the area.

Several iterations of the work have also been installed in other locations, including in Amsterdam. The Guardian published the full list of installation sites in a special supplement in recognition of World Refugee Day in June. The piece has been updated each year by United for Intercultural Action—a network of more than 560 grassroots, NGOs, and other organizations committed to working against nationalism, fascism, and racism—since it was first created in 1993.

Since 2007, the Turkish artist Banu Cennetoğlu has also spearheaded numerous efforts to make people aware of the list. She has printed it out, left it in cafés, and even tried pressing it into the hands of passersby on the street. She spent five years looking for a collaborator who would help her put up billboards listing the names. As a result of her efforts, The List has appeared in Turkey, Germany, the US, Italy, and Switzerland. “I know that as long as I have resources as an artist I will continue to make this list more visible,” she said.

August 7, 2018