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Even though it’s known around the world for its thought-provoking and ground-breaking approach, one experience in this year’s exhibition is more unusual than most.
Columbian artist Luisa Ungar is offering people the chance to find out more about themselves and their own connections with Liverpool’s past in one-to-one phone chats with a clairvoyant.
Her element of the Biennial, called A Regurgitation is a Song is a Spell, has been based on research of official records, artefacts and historical gossip. Taking Liverpool Biennial 2021’s theme of The Stomach and the Port, it aims to take callers back in time to create a series of unique conversations based on the city’s colonial history.
So how does it work? The Guide booked a consultation with Conway, one of the Liverpool-based experts in clairvoyance collaborating with Luisa, to find out …
The phone calls are available to book every Thursday, Friday and Saturday evening until June 26 – they’re usually 20-minute consultations at the most. The calls are with experts in clairvoyance , not the artist – all callers are asked if they are happy to have the conversations recorded and those recordings will then be collected and given to Luisa to listen to.
Every call will be different because it all depends what the caller brings and what conversation that leads to. There’s no right and wrong way to go about it, according to Conway, so no pressure.
“If people have got something in particular they want to ask about or there’s something that they’re curious about they can bring that, but if they just want to ring up and see where we go then we can completely do that,” explains Conway.
“Either way is fine, just come and have a nice little chat and see what happens. Quite often, because of the nature of the work, we aren’t searching for specific answers, we’re just going on this journey together and seeing where it takes us.”
No, Conway says it’s fine not to have anything planned. “Sometimes people come for the consultation with a question in mind, sometimes without. Some have been asking about their ancestors who lived in Liverpool or passed through Liverpool, other people have been asking about the future or about why they feel a certain way. Or they won’t have a specific question, but they’ll have a feeling of anxiety or a feeling of curiosity that they’d like to talk more about.
“I ask people to take their question or feeling and we sit with it together, draw it into us, and imagine it as a part of our body. We let any anxiety become a lump in our throat, we swallow past it so it drops into our stomach and we digest those thoughts or fears or hopes.
“I think together we’re often examining the things we take for granted as being separate and seeing how they intersect, maybe with previous generations. When we have these consultations and conversations we begin to feel the porosity between things and maybe we recognise things we hadn’t before.”
“Outside of this project I’d describe myself as a fortune teller – I read tarot cards, liminal cards, palms – I don’t charge money and I never have. I normally do them in person but the connection with people through these calls has been really strong and that’s what’s made it a joy to work on.
“It’s really interesting and for me it’s a real pleasure talking to people.”
“I like novelty and with art the only thing I’m interested in is that it’s not boring, so if I was looking to engage with some art and I rang someone up and we had an interesting conversation, as long as I didn’t get bored I’d think, this could definitely be art!”
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