The List, 2018, reinstalled in Liverpool by the Liverpool Biennial. Photo: Mark McNulty.

Liverpool Biennial Restores Work Documenting the Refugee Crisis

The List, 2018, a massive installation featuring the names of thousands of refugees and migrants who have died trying to reach Europe, has gone back on display in Liverpool after it was destroyed by unknown perpetrators last month.

The work, which lists the names of 34,361 people and dates back to 1993, is presented by the Liverpool Biennial in collaboration with Turkish artist Banu Cennetoğlu, who, since 2007, has worked to draw attention to the refugee crisis by making The List more visible. Over the years, she has handed out leaflets and published the list of names on billboards. Because of her efforts, the piece has now been on view in several countries, including Amsterdam, the United States, Italy, and Germany.

After the installation was mysteriously torn down, some wondered if the city had accidentally removed the work since it was installed on hoardings that surround a construction site on Great George Street in the Chinatown district of Liverpool. In response to queries about the piece’s disappearance, a city council spokesperson said, “We are definitely not responsible.”

While the contemporary art organization Double Negative reported seeing people in suits tearing The List down at the end of July, it is unclear what their motives were. The biennial’s investigation into the incident is ongoing. 

“The site continues to be a target but we are doing everything we can to ensure that The List is presented for the remainder of Liverpool Biennial 2018, so that more people have the opportunity to come into contact with it,” a biennial spokesperson told the Art Newspaper. The exhibition will close on October 28.

In June, The Guardian also distributed copies of The List as a special supplement to the UK newspaper in conjunction with World Refugee Day. Each year, The List is updated by United for Intercultural Action, a European network of 550 organizations in forty-eight countries. While the number of refugees who have died while trying to reach Europe is almost certainly higher than 34,361, many deaths have gone undocumented. The most recent version of The List was released on May 5, 2018.