Merseyside Totemy

St Nicholas Place
Princes Dock
L3 1QW
Merseyside Totemy by Alicja Biala which consists of three colourful totems.


Liverpool Biennial and Liverpool BID Company today launched 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 and 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

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Season (1 July 2022 - 1 July 2024)

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