Culture Writer Elif Aktan reviews Peter Walker’s Peace Doves at the Liverpool Cathedral, relating the beautiful and peaceful experience
In such an electric city, constantly buzzing with shoppers, tourists, and music-lovers, Liverpool Cathedral provided an oasis of pure tranquillity this summer in the form of the Peace Doves exhibition.
Assembled by the mind and hands of renowned sculptor and artist Peter Walker, this breath-taking installation invited a multitude of members from the Merseyside community to write their own personal messages of hope and love on over 18,000 paper doves. The doves were suspended from the cathedral’s magnificent ceiling, bathed in gentle hues of blue and pink light, and accompanied by the serene soundscape of David Harper’s ‘Ruah Qadeska’, composed specifically for the exhibition. Walking around the beautiful space of the cathedral, it was impossible not to feel drawn in by the calm and welcoming embrace that emanated from Walker’s work.
A powerful feeling of togetherness radiated out of this exhibition. Knowing that each of the doves contained a heartfelt message from a hurting and healing individual, had been assembled by another individual, and strung up by yet another – 18,000 times over – was incredibly moving. Experiencing the collaboration of thousands of people in one space gave me a fresh outlook on many aspects of life following the exhibition; things are put into perspective when you look around and realise everything you see has been made or touched by another human. The enormity of it was surprisingly grounding; it was one of those moments where you acknowledge your smallness against the grandness of the universe and feel your modest yet mighty significance as a human. Peace Doves served as a poignant reminder of the impact we each have on others and the world around us.
The sheer magnitude of hope contained in this installation was impossible to capture on camera. Perhaps that is what made it so special – as I walked around, taking it all in, I knew that I was experiencing something that could not be conveyed through pixels on a screen, or even fully through words. Though I may not be able to fully translate to others the hope and tranquillity Peace Doves brought me, I certainly feel inspired to let those feelings infuse into everything I do – my actions, the way I interact with people. It was a reminder that us humans all go through the same things: grief, mourning, pain. They are universal feelings and we should let them bring us together as one whole – as Peter Walker allowed thousands to do through the creation and viewing of this exhibition. We all know how it feels to grieve, to mourn, to hurt – so what is it to be human, if we are not there for those who are in pain?
Humbly tucked away towards the back of the cathedral was another interactive piece from Walker called Peace to Ourselves, an adaptation of one of his previous works, Buttons (2018). People were encouraged to take a button and place it within the outline of a dove on the floor, while remembering a loved one, or practising gratitude. There was something so emotional in picking up buttons that had fallen out of the dove formation and gently putting them back where they belonged. The realisation flooded through me: the last person holding this prayed on it, thought of someone they have loved and lost, sent love out to someone who is struggling. Walker excelled in conveying the experience of what it means to be human through the tiny vessel of a button, or a small paper bird.
Observing a project that you know has been touched by and moved the hearts of thousands of people evokes a feeling that goes beyond words. If I had to whittle down this experience to just one thing I learnt, it would be this: as humans, we should make art together. We should build hope together. We are much less alone in our suffering than we think we are.
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