Cradled in the blacked-out gallery space of Grand Union are a series of silver gelatin prints, digital prints and digitised Super8mm films. The works, by New York-born Phyllis Christopher, are concerned with the beauty and the power of queer lesbian sexuality, love and expression, with each intricately connected to Christopher’s autobiographical experiences in San Francisco from 1988-2007.
The exhibition’s design mimics a photographic dark room – a space of safety and seclusion, of freedom, concealing and revealing. It is also a space of making, of making a stand and therefore of occupying space. The breadth of Christopher’s subjects and the differing modes of display used here ask questions not only of what is public and what is private but also of consumption, value, access and process. The Super8 films Skin (1988-90) and Kiss-In (1990), showing bodily close-ups and tender kisses between two women respectively, for instance, are shown here for the first time and projected on a large double-sided screen. These are placed alongside Heads and Tails (1994-2003), enlarged black and white proofs assembling the domestic, the technical and the personal in new configurations. Seats at a low table containing small boxes of ripped prints of protest and portrait invite intimate, gentle rifling, with more thorough examination via a lightbox and magnifying lens nearby. Both make implicit reference to the physical contact called into question by the Covid-19 pandemic …
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Commissioned and published by Photomonitor.
Phyllis Christopher: Heads and Tails
24.09.21 – 04.03.21
Grand Union, Birmingham