Guests by Krzysztof Wodiczko is an installation piece made up of audio snippets surrounded by rounded arches and blurred figures projected in a dark room. Seeing people walking by and talking in this setting triggers a sense of familiarity - almost like the shuffling before worship or a bustling scene at the train station.
Being inside the dark room transforms us into passersby, similar to the blurred figures moving through the rounded arches. It feels like everyone is minding their own business and keeping the conversations to themselves. The topics being discussed may seem irrelevant to some of us at first, but these snippets of stories will make you want to stop and listen.
Here is a place where stories of confessions, prayers and hope (or the loss of the latter) are told. Stories about people wishing desperately to be accepted, penalised for having children, or being denied humanity amongst other struggles caused by racism. The emotional power of these stories cannot be described in words.
In one corner, a woman talks about the feeling of acceptance in a new country after escaping accusations of witchcraft in the place where she originated. She shares with us the relief of finally finding a family that loves her after receiving so much hate in her country of birth. Next to this, another woman talks about the challenge of helping someone to find a house in Poland because the country does not like foreigners, especially those with children. Similarly, another voice speaks of the children of migrant families who are over the age of fourteen do not have access to education in Romania even if they were born there, because of the generational challenge of securing legal documents.
We hear more stories as we walk around the space. Murmurs turning into clear voices as we get closer. A man who is alone in a cold and unknown place thinks that Poland has no clarity in the way it treat refugees. He wonders where human rights and democracy are - the things that Europe is supposedly known for.
A Vietnamese woman chooses to believe that her friend is safe even though she knew the system helped Vietnam to capture the friend and took him away for execution. Amongst the many voices, we can hear a person talking about how the system doesn't listen to the individual stories of these refugees. People are thrown from one country to another and there is no regard as to how this process will affect them psychologically, because no country wants to take responsibility.
These days, both our physical and digital world are saturated with news about refugees and migration, to the extent that many of us are growing desensitised to it. But in this space, we have been given the role of listener. It may feel passive because we don't have the ability to offer help to those who need it or even tell them that we’re sorry but we can listen. And that’s ok, because now we are aware.
See Liverpool Biennial 2016 at FACT until 16 October, open daily 11am - 6pm.