I first met Sarah Smizz almost a decade ago at Psalter lane campus. The building occupied by the Steel city’s art school, which now finds itself nestled in the centre of this city, the calm steady beating heart of England known as Sheffield. At that time, all those years ago, Smizz was one of the only individuals openly interested in Street art in the entire institute. Not only that! But her choice of clothing was and still is super dope, rocking skate shoes, and baggy attire. I immediately saw a kindred spirit and watching Sarah who was in the year above me do her thing in a social, informed, and truthful way. Really inspired me to work with people – her projects (both successes and failures) are too numerous to list here. Sarah and I are both from Yorkshire and those initial conversations and collaborative commissions we had together will remain some of the most enjoyable I’ll ever experience. Both, of us have a deep connection to two alien cities: New York and Tokyo. This second home like status of these two metropolises is another thing we both share. I like to imagine us as nomadic visitors travelling into the depths of the urban to increase a creative, healthy, and equal community in the necessary global cosmopolitas.
Since I left to experience Japan two years ago, my dear friend has grown and achieved so much. This post is to show my continuous gratitude and respect for this amazing person, apologise for being so uncommunicative, and of course to share her with those surfing the internet. Initially, at Sheffield’s art school Sarah and her peers created an independent art space deliciously named Cake. Over a couple of years the art space ran exhibitions, fund-raisers, and slam poetry. Throughout, these university years Sarah’s Marxist pride started to seep into her fearless socially mindful practices. Memorable examples include: Utopian Protagonists: A luxury Studio Flat (a project drawing attention to the everyday capitalist realities for many artists – through advertising only), Poverty Is The Gift That Keeps On Giving (A set of drawings showing Sarah to be a true flanuer; Benjamin would’ve been proud), C.A.a.D (Contemporary Art as Dialogue – Curatorial Group) and the project Platform Plateaus and Potential For Progress ( A city wide series of events designed to emphasis the affects of institutions on the group (2009)). These are all good examples of the work that constitutes Sarah’s deep grounding in resisting the less obvious evils of capitalism its brainwashing of individuals, and intentional dumbing down the population. Her work made me become critical of myself and others. Really, forcing me to engage with the desire to resist Capitalism’s deathly dark side.
Meeting Sarah you are guaranteed a conversation like no other – she is and will remain my go to person to discuss philosophy, quantum mechanics, technology, history, hip-hop, politics and culture drawn from anywhere. From here I want to discuss the two most impressive things I find about Sarah. First, is how she embodies and lives a very deep and personal connection between drawing and health. This may become self evident when she completes her Phd with Sheffield’s excellent Lab4Living. But, it is already obvious to those who consider her a friend and who are colleagues/collaborators. Take a look at her continued production of drawings of the city, of New York – for me these drawings demonstrate not just the physical use of lines by artists. Rather how it is innately human to want to be connected not just for the sake of communication, but for well being, and the cultivation of feelings and sensations that are beneficial to the human. Speaking of art, what Sarah brought into the imagination of those lucky people that glimpsed her expanded project Powernoid was an understanding and critic of the power structures of the art world. Inspired by her research for her Masters degree and the work of William Powhida, Deb Solkow, Charles Avery, and Olivia Plender. Sarah used her drawing skills to achieve what her own words best describe,
‘I re-distribute agency to the individual/collective and critique existing power structures, as such my work could be defined especially close to the idea of
institutional critique. I trace the roots of these interests to my working class
background, which gives me an affinity to society’s underdogs. With a suspicious
mind I have been concerned with the content of history and how it is circulated.
I do this by comparing elements such as folk myths and political campaigning to grass-roots activism with the cannon of art history.’
As you can see this work is a culmination of many years of creativity, interest, and inquiry. This work is special for many reasons it potentially marks a turning point in her life: a deepening of her appreciation for NYC (Sarah took Powernoids into Winkleman Gallery in 2010), a maturing of her own identity in surely one of art’s finest tapestries or maps? And what I could suggest is her last art work in the sense of one body of visual work produced by one individual made before her interest in healthcare took more of a central focus in her life. Resulting in her second degree in radiotherapy, Sarah is fully qualified to offer such treatment in any such hospital department. This then leads to her Phd on how creative methodologies can be used in both the implementation, research, and understanding of healthcare.
The second thing that Sarah supports and stands for is the politics of the working class, which she and I were both born into. So, it is not uncommon to encounter her next to Ed Miliband drumming up support for the Labour party. Sarah’s connection to the red side of British politics has been naturally intensified in the face of the Conservative party’s austerity politics. The agenda of those in power hurt the poorest and support the wealthiest. Nowhere is this more evident than the constant attack on the NHS in favour of an American system of privatisation, open to the external interests of private business. Sarah has at times been one of the many that have depended on our countries health service, and so she feels this wretched attack on those with less money by those with enough capital to not even use our country’s public hospitals, more intensely then most. I hope that in the future I might have the chance to continue our collaborations, after Sarah has re-drawn the intellectual landscape of the UK, and its discourses on health and art. You can connect to Sarah Smizz’s work and projects following the links below. There is also a fantastic essay on MUTE’s website which Sarah shared with me – written by Benedict Seymour, it uses Lord Of The Rings to explain Capitalism.