Sinead Nunes on Jose Angel Vincench’s ‘Exile’

Photograph by Sinead Nunes

At last the Biennial is upon us, and what better way to start seeing it than through the vast collection of public realm installations across the city? With sculptural pieces of work dominating many popular spaces in the city centre, art lovers have no excuse to miss these brilliant additions to the city’s streets. First exhibited at the 11th Havana Bienniale, these mobile installations have found their way across the globe to Liverpool…

Today running an errand across town, I stumbled upon Vincench’s Exile, an installation composed from five free-standing trailers, each shaped into the form of a letter to spell out the word EXILE. The word immediately conjures up many images for me, and not having a guide with me as I took in this piece, I automatically made some interpretations of my own: the trailers at first reminded me of those in which prisoners are carried from courthouse to jail, and the word ‘Exile’ strongly resonated with this idea of a convicted outcast.

Since reading up on Vincench, I have discovered that his work is truly intended to convey the status of refugees who are forced to flee their home countries due to social and political issues outside of their control. The work aptly visualises this idea, as the trailers are wheeled and ready to move at any time, and their boxy, claustrophobic shape suggests the idea of entrapment even in escape: these people do not choose to flee, but they must.

The trailers themselves are just big enough to fit a single person inside, and again, this implies the loneliness and isolation that comes with seeking asylum. Refugees find themselves cast out and alone, in search of safety, yet unable to trust those around them, and perhaps only able to rely on themselves. Vincench’s piece portrays this with accuracy, through the size and clumsy shapes of the trailers and in so doing, causes his audience to consider some key socio-political issues.

What I really love, is the installation’s location outside St George’s Hall. Contrasting the grandeur behind, these five trailers highlight the plight of the refugee and their size, in comparison with the huge scale of the building behind again reinforces the sense of loneliness and inability to rely on society as a whole – the tiny trailers appear cast aside and overlooked, which is how the fleeing refugees would really feel.

A second interpretation, according to the Biennial website,  ( ) is that the work intends to encourage debate surrounding the existence of nomad communities. In recent pop-culture, gypsies have become a source of fun and light entertainment on Channel 4, yet their way of life is under threat if they refuse to change their habitation beliefs. The sense of perpetual motion suggested by the wheels on the trailers reflects the lives of the nomadic populace, and encourages us to think about this way of life.


I encourage anyone meandering past towards the primary gallery location at the Walker to stop and take a look at this installation from artist Vincench, and consider how beautifully his work encapsulates this year’s theme: The Unexpected Guest.

Sinead Nunes