Waylay awakens ghostly traces of history. Installed in water, the work exists as a series of sporadic splashes, sometimes playful, as if made by a child skimming stones, sometimes more sinister, as if something unknown were falling from the sky. Catching viewers unawares, the work activates space, encouraging contemplation of the site in which it is located. When the work has been shown previously, viewers have also created their own spontaneous narratives to accompany and explain the mysterious splashes.
Submerged in Liverpool’s Albert Dock, Waylay activates the complex history of a site at times inextricably linked to the economic status of the city. In its heyday Liverpool controlled 40 per cent of the world’s maritime trade and became one of the richest cities in Britain. Profiting greatly from the slave trade, the dock has at times also had a darker role. However, the advent of steam liners, too large for the dock to accommodate, and the gradual decline of the maritime industry ultimately led to a massive loss of income for the city – its impact still felt and visible.
In the wake of the Toxteth riots in 1981, the Albert Dock complex was one of the first sites of regeneration and is now one of the city’s most important tourist attractions.