Words by Patrick Kirk-Smith
Pictures by Neil Murphy
Jimmy Cauty has returned to Liverpool. And I wasn’t alive to witness his chosen subject, but I grew up surrounded by the aftereffects of that history. The Toxteth Riots of the 1980s gave Liverpool an awful name that has carried through to some extent today. His response now though is one that accepts and celebrates the progressive change in L8 over the last three decades. That response might well be a dark vision of the riots, but it stands not as a comment on the present, but as a reminder of where we’ve come from.
A simple celebration of the tiny significance that this history has now, using tiny people and tiny lights. There’s nothing closer to the truth of what the 80s is now than that word: history. Thirty years ago the internet didn’t exist, Super Mario Bros was the most advanced game the world had seen and the Albert Dock had been derelict for fourteen years.
There is still a political impact from that time on our lives and cultures in Liverpool, but one so distant now that it is almost forgotten. Cauty’s work is a simple exercise in remembering that time as a snapshot.
Politics aside, the shipping container exhibition has to be one of most impressively detailed objects I’ve ever come across. A landscape that probably won’t ever find a home, and who’s only potential home exists in the past. In as few words as I can manage: it’s a miniature world. But that doesn’t do this any justice; yes there are tiny police officers, and scaled down rioters, outside miniscule McDonalds, but this is about recreating a world that was in tatters, and only giving people a snippet view of what went on.
The peep holes cut into the container determine the angle we get to see Cauty’s new world through, and stop us thinking at any point of our godly position, to help us find an intrigue, rather than a sadness when we reflect on the history his work displays.
And it couldn’t be more appropriately located than at the heart of The Florence Institute Trust (more affectionately known as the Florrie these days) in the heart of L8. Having just about survived a series of fires, a string of riots, and nearly thirty years of closure, it’s a building that has always wanted to serve its community and never had the chance. Four years since re-opening its doors, this show from Jimmy Cauty seems to have provided that final stage of recovery for a building that has been searching very hard for a calling since it’s re-launch in 2012.
The recent re-branding of The Florrie, a building I grew up knowing as ‘the one without the roof in Dingle’, has surpassed any expectations you could imagine, including an in-depth display of the Florrie’s history. So despite my tardiness in reviewing this exhibition (which ends in about two hours), there are plenty of reasons to visit the building.