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Nick Smith
October 29 - November 29

Just as Nick Smith's exhibition was due to open at OUTPUT gallery, local lockdown restrictions meant that we were not able to open to the public. However, Smith installed his exhibition just in time, and he also went on to collaborate with local writer Niloo Sharifi who produced a text in response to his show. Smith, who was exhibiting moving image alongside photo works, has now made a second film that incorporates Sharifi's writing and responds to their collaboration in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. On this page, we have included information about the artist, the copy from the exhibition handout, links to the podcast interview with Smith, documentation of the exhibition in situ, and we are also now presenting both the new film Smith made and the text by Sharifi in full below.

Nick Smith is an artist working in moving image, photography, drawing and publishing. After graduating from the Royal College of Art in 2012 with an MA in Photography, he founded Relief Press in 2013: a micro-publishing house that creates artists and curatorial books, specialising in photography. On his artist practice, Smith writes ‘My aim is to create evocations that connect the past to the present. The work usually starts with a specific moment of departure and/or arrival within the realms of publicness, regionality, class, memory and the image.’ For his exhibition at OUTPUT, Smith is exhibiting his 2020 split screen video ‘Where Were You When It Was Shit?’ The work examines the artist’s youth growing up here in Merseyside from 1974-1996, a turbulent period for the region. Created using found & archival footage, and drawing influences from social realist landscape painting and DJ sets from the mid 90s, the video features the Kirkby rent strike, Toxteth Riots, Dockers Strike, Quadrant Park, Liverpool Garden Festival and This Morning with Richard and Judy, as the artist reflects on a social landscape wherein history might be on the verge of repeating itself.

Please find the full press release here.

Listen to our podcast interview with the artist here on our website with a transcription too, or find the episode on Anchor, Spotify and Google. Note: this was recorded when we were still unsure on the implications of lockdown restrictions and before Smith's idea to work with a writer.

You can follow Nick Smith on Instagram and Twitter.
You can follow Niloo Sharifi on Instagram.

Text by Niloo Sharifi:

Some people say time goes in circles
Like an argument
Like the hands of a clock
Like a ship sailing around the world and back home again
Like an empty hand reaching back into the same pocket for more,
Like clockwork, everything acts according its mechanism, and comes back home again.

According to Kurt Godel, "By making a round trip on a rocket ship in a sufficiently wide curve, it is possible in these worlds to travel into any region of the past, present, and future and back again."

How many calendars will satisfy the beast? How many arms, legs and hearts?

Friday, June 1, 1832. Page six of The Liverpool Mercury, the local weekly newspaper:

“Fire. – on Friday night, a very large stack of excellent hay, worth some hundreds of pounds, the property of C. Tayleure, Esq., Toxteth-Park, was destroyed by fire. There is too much reason to believe that the fire was the work of incendiaries; it is supposed that it was done by some poor persons who had been in the habit of sleeping at nights under the hay, and who, having been driven away from the spot, took this mode of revenging themselves.

Right of the poor man to the elective franchise as well as the rich or middle class. –
We always smile when we hear men talk of extending the elective franchise to those who pay direct taxes, as if it made any difference whether a tax be direct or indirect, so long as it must be paid. In point of fact, the poor man, so far from contributing less than others in the way of taxation, contributes much more according to his means. As the vulgar saying is, he “pays through the nose” for everything that he uses. In buying his tea, sugar, coffee in the smallest quantity, he pays an enhanced price, and the difference between his method of supplying himself and that of the man who can procure what he wants in larger quantities, is probably from 13 to 20 per cent in favour of the latter. At the great reform meeting on Monday last, Mr Ralph Stevenson said on this subject, - “Ellensborough, Baring, Carnavon, and others, call the people rabble, vagabonds, ragamuffins. I have often asked these gentlemen, Pray, who fights your battles and defends your property? And above all, who pays the taxes? Why, these poor people whom you vilify and abuse, to be sure: the millions of men, women and children who consume bread, tea, sugar, coffee, beer, spirits, tobacco, soap, candles.”

Cholera – Disgraceful Outrage. – We are sorry to learn that what we have scarcely believed when it was told of the serfs of Russia, and the boors of the Continent, is really true of some of the inhabitants of Liverpool. In consequence of the appearance of cholera amongst us, commodious hospitals have been prepared in various parts of the town. The disease has hitherto principally selected its victims amongst the poor and the destitute, and their confined, miserable, and ill-ventilated dwellings are the most likely to generate and propagate the contagion.

It is very strange, but very true, that amongst great numbers of the lower classes in this town an idea is prevalent that the cholera is a mere invention of the medical men to fill their own pockets, and that the hospitals are nothing more nor less than receptacles for victims of experiment whilst living, and subjects for the dissecting knife when dead.”

The article goes on to describe a riot in Toxteth-park which kicked off when a dock labourer and his wife, showing all symptoms of cholera, were removed to the local hospital. A mob of over a thousand people, which it describes as consisting “principally of women and boys of the lowest order”, assembled outside the hospital, throwing stones with cries of “Bring out the Burkers”, “There go the murderers”.

“the Burkers” referred to the Burke and Hare scandal of four years previous, when two men in Edinburgh were hanged for killing 16 poor people and selling the corpses to a doctor for dissection in anatomy classes. The issue was of particular concern because in 1826, 33 dug-up bodies were discovered at the Liverpool docks, about to be shipped to Edinburgh for dissection.

The mob attacked anyone they assumed to be doctors, and broke the windows of the room where the dock labourer’s wife lay in a dying state. Her doctor fled the room, and when he returned hours later it was too late to save her.

“We have heard that some interested individuals had been actively engaged in circulating rumours calculated to inflame the passions and prejudices of the mob, but we cannot credit a rumour so deeply disgraceful to the persons accused,” the Mercury writes. 

Similar riots continued for two weeks, until an appeal from clergymen dissipated the rage and suspicion of the people.

After Liverpool’s cholera riots and growing national concern, the Anatomy Act of 1832 was passed 2 months later, which allowed donated bodies to be used for dissection.

It remained in place until it was repealed by the Human Tissue Act of 2001, which made it legal to donate organs anonymously, and outlawed selling organs for the first time. The Act was in part a response to public outcry in Liverpool again, after it was discovered that Alder Hey Children’s Hospital was retaining a large number of hearts without consent.

Some people say time goes in circles
Like the hands of a clock
But I say it goes in spirals
Like a coiled spring
Like a barber’s pole
Like a sailor coming home to find home got smaller while he was away
Like the fury of a mob, which increases as it proceeds

Our city stands between the earth and the heavens, preventing their meeting
Like a coiled spring, compressed tighter and tighter
Like a box room wheezing for breath under the weight of a freight ship
Between the earth and heaven

WHERE are they bound, those gallant ships,
    That here at anchor lie,
Now quiet as the sleeping birds,
    Beneath a summer sky?
A little while the wind will rise,
    And every ship will be,
With plashing prow, and shining sail,
    Afar upon the sea.

In peace they go, with pure intent,
    And with this noble aim;
Barbaric hordes to civilize,
    By traffic to reclaim.

They go for knowledge, and in hope
    Such knowledge may avail,
To draw the savage and unknown
    Within the social pale.

Science, thy own adventurers
    Again are on their way—
And but for thy most glorious hopes,
    What were our mental day?

Sail on, proud bark, a lofty aim
    It was that freighted thee,
And for their sake who tread thy decks,
    God speed thee o’er the sea!

By Letitia Elizabeth Landon, in July 1832. The poem was written on the occasion of Macgregor Laird’s expedition to establish trade routes along the Niger delta. The majority of the passengers died on the journey, but not Macgregor Laird.

When Liverpool was first founded as a borough by royal charter in 1207, it consisted of 7 streets. For centuries, the population never exceeded 1000. In 1571, it fell below 600 – the residents had to beg Elizabeth I for subsidy from a payment, signing the letter “her majesty’s poor, decayed town of Liverpool”. It wasn’t until the first shipment of tobacco arrived from Virginia in 1648 that Liverpool’s fortune began to turn. By the end of the 18th century, 80% of the British slave trade was conducted with ships leaving Liverpool’s docks, and Liverpool was a big city, with political influence.

This, the Empire’s evacuated lung, was once an extraction funnel for the air of half the world, operated by hearts it never worried about losing. Science’s adventures ate everything up. How many calendars until the beast is satisfied?

Liverpool Mercury, July 17th, 1835. Dreadful riots

“We are sorry to have to state that during the early part of the week the peace of the town was disturbed, and the lives and property of the peaceable inhabitants endangered, by a most lawless and savage series of riots, in which the lower orders of the Irish residents were the principal; or indeed, the only actors.
On Sunday last being the 12th July, the anniversary of the battle of the Boyne, a report got abroad, we know not with what foundation, that the Orangemen intended to celebrate by a public procession. This the opposite faction determined to prevent.
The fury of the mob seemed to increase as they proceeded.”

The Scottish doctor who was buying bodies from the hanged ‘Burker’ murderers was called Robert Knox. He wasn’t charged, and continued to practice medicine. Though shunned by his peers, his career found a second wind in the field of scientific racism, or as they called it then, ‘medical journalism’. He dedicated his life to proving that “race is everything”. For example, he wrote, “The source of all evil lies in the race, the Celtic race of Ireland. The race must be forced from the soil. The Orange club of Ireland is a Saxon confederation for the clearing the land of all Celts. If left to themselves, they would clear them out, as Cromwell proposed, by the sword; it would not require six weeks to accomplish the work. But the Encumbered Estates Relief Bill will do it better." This was a bill forcing Irish people who couldn’t pay rent on their land during the Great Famine to sell their estates. Knox believed that all races are “destined to run, like all other animals, a certain, limited course of existence, it mattering little how their extinction is brought about”.

What does it feel like living at the mercy of the heartless? 
Every special moment, Sleeping in this discarded ribcage
Our city stands between the heaven and earth, preventing their meeting.
But hope is a thread that begins in your chest and ends in paradise.
You cannot arrest it
You cannot speak sense to it
Senseless as a child asking why it isn’t fair
Paradise is in the heart of simple questions-
How much is enough?
Nick Smith
Nick Smith

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