Susan Fitch

Susan Fitch, A Hundred Thousand Echoes, 1999

Susan Fitch, A Hundred Thousand Echoes, 1999

For TRACE, Susan Fitch (b. 1940, Salisbury, England) made a series of works based on her research into the history of social engineering in Liverpool dating from the nineteenth century until as recently as the 1950s. 

The benefactors of the city in the nineteenth century arranged for ‘orphans’ – a category that included children of single mothers – to be rounded up and sent off to the colonies of Canada and Australia. While the opportunities presented by life in the colonies might have seemed attractive at the time, we now know about the hardship and brutality that the children actually faced. The process had its modern counterpart during and after the war. The Leaving of Liverpool, a BBC documentary, exposed the tragic repercussions of this practice.

Documents relating to these children were available in open drawers for the public to read, while more sensitive items were displayed behind glass. There is an extraordinary acoustic quality under the dome in the Library so that a whisper in the centre of the space is eerily echoed at points around the periphery. Making use of this effect, Fitch installed a sound piece based on readings of a letter from a 95 year old woman who was deported to Canada as a child.

In St John’s Park opposite, she constructed wreaths made of tiny acetate portraits of 10,000 deported children. The wreaths were then laid at the feet of the bronze monuments to the benefactors who made this practice possible. Further tiny portraits were be planted in amongst the ivy in the garden. These portraits were the size and shape of the ivy leaves, doubling the commemorative function of ivy and the wreath. By ‘growing’ out of the soil of the commemorative garden in the city of their birth, the children’s photos acted as memento mori. They also brought to mind romantic nineteenth-century horticultural metaphors for the development of children, and the horticultural practice of transplanting native species on foreign soil.

Susan Fitch at Liverpool Biennial 1999

A Hundred Thousand Echoes, 1999
Mixed media installation 
Courtesy of Artist
Exhibited in public realm