The Merseyside totems visualise the rising sea levels and flooding of the area predicted by scientists by 2080, the same year that will mark the two-hundredth anniversary of Liverpool being declared a city in 1880. Each totem is topped with a mast pointing to three areas of Merseyside threatened by rising sea levels: Formby, Liverpool City Centre and Birkenhead.

Formby Totem
82 % within the flood zone

Liverpool Totem
4% within the flood zone

Birkenhead Totem
45 % within the flood zone

These predictions of rising sea levels are based on the rate of climate change given current emissions, but this rate could decrease or, more likely, increase. Children in the region will be around retirement age by 2080, meaning that they will experience these effects of climate change within their lifetimes.

Each totem is topped with flags pointing to three areas of Merseyside threatened by rising sea levels: Liverpool City Centre, Formby and Birkenhead.

The rusted portions of each sculpture represent the percentage of land in that area that will be within the flood zone, relative to the full height of the totem. The painted portions represent the percentage of land that will remain above the flood zone.

The Merseyside totems take their inspiration in form and materials from the local heritage of ship building, given the subject and message they communicate. Each component (from the symbols on the flags to the patterns) has a message derived from maritime signals, highlighting danger and identifying passageways in uncertain waters. As the sea levels rise, these totems would emerge from the water surface as strange buoys, signalling and reminding passersby of a time in which the choice of how to navigate climate change was still within reach.

Alicja Biala
Merseyside Totemy, 2022
Commissioned by Liverpool Biennial and Liverpool BID Company, with production supported by Arup and Castle Fine Arts Foundry.
Until Summer 2024
St Nicholas Place
Princes Dock
L3 1QW
Free Entry

The flags reference international maritime signals, an alphabet of phrases used by ships around the world to communicate with one another. The patterns chosen for the flags signal of imminent dangers, needing assistance, and other distress signals.

Climate Central