Still from 'Echo in Time' by Ciaran Wood
16/06/22 - 10/07/22
Kicking off OUTPUT’s 2022/23 Arts Council-funded programme is a solo exhibition by Ciarán Wood, a Liverpool-born artist who works primarily with video, using historical and personal footage to interrogate the purpose and function of recording events.

His film ‘Echo in Time’ - which can be viewed below - sees the artist utilise footage shot by his Father (photographer Tom Wood) in Cooper's Town House in Liverpool in the early 2000s. This busy, karaoke-centric city-centre pub (previously known as the Sefton) sits on Cases Street, in an area with historical links to the slave trade, which has seen extensive redevelopment since the 1960s.

The film resonates strongly in the current era, showing a close-knit local community which finds joy and familiarity in regular gatherings, imbuing the physical space of the pub with an overwhelming sense of personality and the ability to unite disparate groups in camaraderie and song. In exploring the social and architectural history of this area, Wood reveals universal truths about the marginalisation of working class spaces and culture in contemporary Britain. ‘Echo in Time’ is warm, nostalgic and honest; a must-see for Liverpool residents who have lived through the urban and social upheaval depicted in the film.

The film features excerpts of poetry by Kev Kharas & Ciaran Wood, Jude Mazonowicz and Tom Calderbank. A poster for the film, depicting the Coopers frontage, has been painted by Jack Fawdry Tatham. A second screen is showing a performance by Tommy Calderbank of his poem 'Selling out the Singing City' with headphones.

There is a Q&A with the artist below, and a longer interview available as a podcast (or transcript) here.

To access a 'bonus disc' of additional material on the artist's website, including full vintage karaoke performances, please visit ciaran-wood.com/echo-in-time/

Website: ciaran-wood.com
Still from 'Echo in Time' by Ciaran Wood
Can you describe your time in Liverpool, and how it has impacted your practice / identity as an artist? Does Liverpool play a role in your wider practice beyond the ‘Echo in Time’ project?

I grew up over the water in New Brighton. Liverpool has always loomed large in my subconscious, even more permanently since I left. In recent years has seeped into my practice. I guess generally I am just interested in where I’m from. My artistic practice has persistently returned to questions of location, extimate biography, and the intimacy of geopolitical feeling. For me that’s Liverpool and Ireland, where a lot of my family are from. 

What was the original purpose of your Dad shooting this footage?

He’s a photographer (tomwoodarchive.com) who documented Liverpool and Merseyside for many many years. I think Coopers the pub interested him - the people, some of whom he already knew from around the city. I think he had planned to film in there longer, but didn’t do much more than a few weekends over a couple of months.

Working in moving image, are you more influenced by fine art video work or the vast amount of video content we see in the rest of our lives - news / streaming / films & TV? Were there any specific major influences on this work?

I’d like to say I’m more influenced by fine art video/moving image, but not 100%.

Not so much any TV or news influences but there’s certain aspects of music videos, and general “content” you find on YouTube and other platforms that has seeped in to the way I work. Barrabackslarrabang by Imogen Stidworthy was a contextual influence, but not a stylistic one. In it she filmed people in two Liverpool pubs speaking back slang, hence the title. When I first started working with my dad’s footage I almost had to separate the sound from the visual - the pub was so loud, songs so catchy, a lot of my edit decisions were too easily influenced at first. Evidence of Things Unseen But Heard by Louis Henderson was something I had seen whilst sifting through footage too.

You started work on Echo in Time during the pandemic - how did this influence the work?

Seeing all these people, a community, alive inside Coopers, through a pandemic, 20 years in the future… was all I needed really to get going! It was the togetherness. It is what we (I) needed at that time, what we had taken away from us, and what was longed for by many I’m sure. It felt like an alternate universe full of smoke, patterns, karaoke and swirling round the room. So that was the entry point. When I started working on the structure of the film it became less influential, as I went into the geography and history of the area, and the position of Coopers inside Liverpool City Centre.

It was difficult working through the footage and editing without being able to visit the pub, or even walk around Liverpool. I spent all lockdowns in Hastings, and travelled up to Liverpool for a couple of weeks during the Tier 3 (experiment?) in January 2021. By this point I had made most of the skeleton of the film, and wanted to film inside the empty pub. It was so strange being inside this empty cultural space.

Echo in Time has been exhibited in Blackpool and Brighton previously - what kind of feedback did you receive on the work? Has anyone from the footage seen the film?

Firstly a huge thank you to Grundy Art Gallery for supporting the production of the work over the pandemic, and first exhibiting it. It got a great reception in Blackpool, sadly due to Covid there wasn’t a proper opening and it was sporadic and open in and out of lockdowns. I think some people have seen the film, but I imagine a lot more from the footage will see themselves or people they know now that it is showing in Liverpool. At Brighton it was shown in a slightly different context as part of a public programme, looking at infrastructures, communities and trade. [I sent you the PDF, can be linked?]

What is next for you as an artist?

I’m going to be working with more of my dad’s footage; And separately I’m working on a film based in Ireland at the moment, addressing factors of sentimentality and the formation of nostalgia - Irishness, Englishness, but all tangled up in my family history and their exile from Ireland.

Still from 'Echo in Time' by Ciaran Wood
Still from 'Echo in Time' by Ciaran Wood
There are places I remember
Like the corners of my mind
Misty water-coloured way-we-weres
Captured space and time
Tom’s lens came to Ada Cooper’s
Following his crowd
A haven from the cold
Inviting light and sound
Relief from the rigours
Home away from home
All chitterchatter bustling, jostling
Cosy, friendly, warm
Filled with characters larger
Than life itself, stars that might have been
Still alive inside an echo, echo, echo
The room too small to hold their dreams

Pathologically friendly, this lot
Talk to anyone, whether they want to or not
The Unconscious Carpet beneath their feet
Soaks up the dancesteps and many pints spilt
The memory of all in the fabric’s weaveworld
Its crazy patterns are lysergic cobbles vibrating
Trip to the loo, my darling
And beneath the carpet, the beach….
Here, its always time to cut a rug
Some cuts are rough,
And may not make the final film
Ending up on the cutting room floor
Where all the dancers meet
Two left feet or no feet left
Just dance, will yer…

Transforming the everyday with booze fuelled magic
Adding to their lives a layer of glamour
They grab the mic like there’s no tomorrow
Karaoke democracy!
Good old fellas and goodtime girls trade tunes
Belted out or gently crooned
(If you look hard enough, you can see their souls when they do)
….Be my, be my baby….
…All you wanna do is ride around Sally…
…How would you like to be, down by the Seine with me….?
…Fate. Up against your will…
…It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing…
…They had dreams and songs to sing…

Dockers imagine themselves on Top of the Pops
Milkmen playing the Albert Hall
Office girls smashing it at Wembley
Locksmiths headlining Glasto
Singing songs in the key of Yale
Churches swerved on a Sunday
Swapping priests for barmaids
Crisps for wafers
Collection plates for overflowing ashtrays
Pints for communion wine
Old couples still holding hands after all this time
Singing The People’s Hymns
They congregate to elevate through secular song
“And now, a reading from the book of Our Gerry…”

So before last orders are called on such things
Let’s look at why the caged bird sings
These aren’t the folk who killed Clayton Square
Or made entire districts disappear
These crimes committed by sharp-suited men
Who made it all come tumbling down, again and again
These are the survivors of mass demolitions
Whose suspicions we’re ruled by fools proved true
Let’s celebrate these places, these faces we knew
These people deserve poetry and song
Their desire restless, relentless, strong
See the magic in their mundane
The epic in their everyday
This portrait of a people in their public home
Who lived and loved life to the bone.

A closing event for the exhibition held on 10/07/22 featuring poetry read by Jude Mazonowicz (right) and a programme of films selected by Ciaran Wood:

A response to 'Where were you when it was shit?'
by Nick Smith / nil00

'Evidence of Things Unseen but Heard'
by Louis Henderson

We Was All One
Thames TV documentary, 1972

Still from 'Echo in Time' by Ciaran Wood