We all form relationships with the buildings we inhabit. Everything from their location and design to the positioning of a light-switch conditions the way we think about and interact with them. Yet never is a building given the opportunity to reveal what it feels about us. For the duration of the Biennial Julianne Swartz has allowed the architecture of Tate Liverpool – a converted warehouse reopened as a gallery during the area’s regeneration in 1988 – to do just that. Its walls, windows, sinks, ventilators and stairs have been given mouths’ with which to communicate.
Disembodied voices, some familiar, others less so, address us as we navigate the gallery: ‘I don’t know your name, but I love you. We’ve never met, but I love you. We’ll probably never meet, but I can still say that I love you...’. The building has come alive and is welcoming us. Initially these sounds slyly invade our subconscious, yet we soon become highly aware of the building as an active presence. The words keep finding us, transgressing the coding of a public space and allowing it to become an arena for private moments. By personalising the public, Affirmation reveals and questions the conflicting messages institutional buildings often convey.