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Review: Krzysztof Wodiczko at FACT for Liverpool Biennial 2016

Krzysztof Wodiczko at FACT
Liverpool Biennial 2016

Words by Patrick Kirk-Smith

Krzysztof Wodiczko’s exhibition at FACT, commissioned a part of Liverpool Biennial 2016 is unmissable for anyone who remembers the FACT of a few years ago. There’s a huge difference in the content of exhibitions at FACT these days, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing, but this sort of project has been missing. The reason is in that word: project. FACT is supposed to be the UKs leading Media Arts Centre, so for that claim to stand, it has a responsibility to show work that asks things we might not already know.

Last year, an exhibition featuring Shia LeBeouf questioned whether social media made it easier to access celebrities. The answer was a very simple yes, which the vast majority of people could have answered without seeing the exhibition. Those sorts of questions don’t advance creative understanding of media; what does, is what Krzysztof Wodiczko is asking.

How can technology, specifically prosthetic technology, help our modern understanding immigration and displacement?

OK, so it’s not exactly a question that effects most people’s daily lives, but it’s one that most people can consider during those daily lives. Art is capable of taking responsibility for a lot of big things, and the ego boost that comes with addressing things successfully is a big part of why a lot of people enter creative careers.

Wodiczko’s exhibition addresses, very directly a question, rather than answering one, but the result is an entire Biennial’s worth of visitors that have come to this new issue with a creative mind-set. The placement of the work within the arts festival, or within FACT, means that the people now trying to answer his question are doing so in a new and very modern way.

The work itself is largely just an explanation of the idea behind his project, and an almost musicological display of the items that helped him come up with the idea, but in presenting it like that you become part of the network of things that create the work. He is using the same approach of the internet to directly engage with his audience. If exhibitions were lectures, this would be a seminar, in the most discursive way.

The photographs and installations serve as a fantastic story, and if nothing else provide objects to ask questions about, in this weirdly interactive exhibition of progressive technological questioning.