The red on white sign was adopted by Mike Stubbs, Director of FACT to be displayed outside their building on Wood Street for the whole of 2014. At the end of the year it continued its journey east, visiting Leeds for the first time to take up residence outside The Tetley for the whole of 2015.
Over its time at FACT, the Early Warning Sign has had thousands of eyes looking at it and became part of the daily furniture of a bustling square in the centre of Liverpool.
The context of the sign changed with each exhibition drawing out different elements of the work. When we held Turning FACT Inside Out and had a scaled down model of a fracking site in Gallery 1, the sign's message about climate change became particularly pertinent as visitors where confronted directly with our violent treatment of the planet inside the building.
During Time & Motion, an exhibition questioning the state of our work/life balance, the sign's underlying message about consumption, capitalism and its impact on our lives, became a comment on how interlinked these elements of our lives are. When we opened Type Motion, an exhibition looking at typography in moving image, the signs composition and typography came to the fore.
These changing contexts enabled us and our visitors to constantly draw new meaning from the work, keeping it animated throughout its year in Liverpool.
FACT is located in the Rope Walks area of Liverpool. Rope Walks Square provides a link between the busy shopping street of Bold Street (which is made up of great independent shops and the best coffee in town!) and the Wood Street / Seel Street area which, quiet in the day, comes alive at night when Liverpool's special brand of glamour comes out to the clubs and bars, which are concentrated in the area.
As a result the square which connects these areas is a very busy public space and thoroughfare providing a huge audience for sign with hundreds of people sitting, smoking, eating lunch or just passing through, every day.
The sign was very robust and able to look after itself once it was locked into its position on Rope Walks Square. It was very resistant to weather (even the weather in Liverpool!) and damage.
It was challenging for our front of house staff having to lift a heavy sign across a cobbled road every morning and evening. As a result our team felt it could have been better suited and would have been robust enough to be a permanent installation, living outside even after the galleries had closed. Overall, we found it was very easy to look after!
Audience / Feedback
Our front of house staff found that, because it was outside the building, it proved more difficult directly engaging people with the work in the same way they would as a piece inside the building. Staff would often tell people about the sign and they would look at it after leaving the building, meaning the team struggled to gather meaningful feedback on the piece from members of the public.
Our way of combating this was to provide interpretation directly next to the sign for visitors and on the occasions that visitors came to ask for more information they were very engaged in the subject matter and often ended up having in depth conversations with front of house staff about the work and its subject matter.
The position of the work assisted with FACT's gradual encroachment onto Rope Walks Square where we increasingly hold events, large scale projections and sculptural interventions. It enabled us to turn that space into a site for our semi-permanent exhibitions programme and it was very exciting for us to be able to use the space in that way.
Overall the sign was really well received by staff and audiences alike and became an important part of the daily life of the FACT staff and site.