Award-winning Swiss artist Raphael Hefti has arrived in the city to create a spectacular live performance and film to mark the recent opening of Pullman Liverpool, the brand’s first new-build property in the UK.
The new site-specific artwork by Hefti is commissioned by AccorHotels and Liverpool Biennial. The artist has transformed part of Kings Dock into a makeshift foundry and film set, which will also function as a stage for a special live performance on 19 May.
During the performance, invited guests will witness Hefti demonstrate his signature thermite welding technique, a dramatic process for melting and joining steel. The performance will be recorded from start to finish, and the resulting film will be screened in the Pullman hotel as a new artwork that same evening.
This week, Hefti began construction at his improvised outdoor studio built specifically for the project next to Pullman Liverpool, situated at Kings Dock on the world-famous waterfront and adjoining ACC Liverpool. Hefti and his team are using a 80-tonne pile of sand as a makeshift foundry: lava-like flows of liquid metal will pour down the sand, sending sparks flying into the air. Hefti references heavy labour and iron casting, revealing the backbone of contemporary industry – processes that have long histories but that usually remain hidden.
Raphael Hefti said, “I am very excited to be in Liverpool to create a new artwork using a spectacular live process involving molten metal and giant heaps of sand. I am inviting hotel guests and residents to come along and witness the performance, which will result in a film broadcast throughout the new Pullman Liverpool hotel.”
Invited guests will be able to view the performance and its accompanying film via in-room television screens and in the open plan lobby at a special event. The finished edit will complement the collection of carefully curated artwork already adorning the walls of the hotel in the form of dramatic large scale graphics, reflecting the hustle and bustle of docklands life.
The project is inspired by the story of a buoy that washed up on Formby Beach in January 2015, thought to have broken free from its mooring in strong winds. For Hefti, this huge metal buoy came to symbolise Liverpool’s maritime history as a crucial trading point throughout the 19th century. Using thermite welding – a technique invented for the reparation of train tracks – points to the instrumentality of the railway network and the Pullman mainline luxury railway service in securing the transportation of raw materials, finished goods and passengers between the Port of Liverpool and the rest of the country. As part of the process, he will construct a sculpture which will remain in the hotel as a legacy of the performance.
Neil Brailsford, General Manager of Pullman Liverpool, said: “Raphael Hefti is an artist who is unparalleled in contemporary art.
“His unique vision and approach to his creations is breathtaking and watching the process of bringing Liverpool history to life in such a dramatic and thoughtful way is a true testament to this city and our pride at having a home here.
“Pullman Hotels & Resorts have an unwavering commitment to design, art, photography and local culture and house an extensive, independent collection of art, which is on permanent display for guests and visitors to enjoy across its portfolio of international addresses.”