Exhibitions

NORTH: FASHIONING IDENTITY

14 September - 21 December 2019

Exhibitions Future Exhibitions

Peer to Peer

17 October - 22 December 2019

Exhibitions

SIXTEEN at Ellesmere Port Library

19 September - 27 September 2019

Events

WE ARE KIRKBY

19 September 2019

Future Exhibitions

WE ARE KIRKBY

23 September - 16 November 2019

LOOK Events Events

Launch: LOOK Photo Biennial 2019

17 October - 17 October 2019

LOOK Events Events

OPENING: DISTINCTLY

27 September - 27 September 2019

Events

OPEN SOURCE IN CONVERSATION: NATHAN CUTLER

26 September - 26 September 2019

Exhibitions

DIGITAL WINDOW GALLERY: OPEN SOURCE 11 – NATHAN CUTLER

1 September - 30 September 2019

Events

COAST TO COAST TO COAST

14 September - 14 September 2019

Exhibitions Past Exhibitions

DIGITAL WINDOW GALLERY: OPEN SOURCE 10 – JOCELYN ALLEN

1 August - 31 August 2019

Exhibitions

A Portrait Of…

2 August - 29 September 2019

Exhibitions Past Exhibitions

DIGITAL WINDOW GALLERY: OPEN SOURCE 09 – ARABELLE ZHUANG

1 July - 31 July 2019

Past Exhibitions

Close Attention

11 July - 21 July 2019

Exhibitions Past Exhibitions

New York Scene/Unseen: Keith Haring and Friends

14 June - 7 July 2019

Past Exhibitions

DIGITAL WINDOW GALLERY: OPEN SOURCE 08 – DENISA N. MOLNAR

1 June - 30 June 2019

Exhibitions

DIGITAL WINDOW GALLERY: TRANSFORMATIVE MOMENTS – STEPHANIE WYNNE

1 April - 7 July 2019

Past Exhibitions

DIGITAL WINDOW GALLERY: OPEN SOURCE 07 – MARIE SMITH

1 May - 31 May 2019

Projects

VR — Wake Up Together (Ren Hang & Where Love is Illegal)

23 April 2019

Main Exhibition

Belonging: Students of Whitby High School

18 April - 28 April 2019

Exhibitions Past Exhibitions

DIGITAL WINDOW GALLERY: OPEN SOURCE 06 – MARIA ANSELL

1 April - 30 April 2019

Past Exhibitions

DIGITAL WINDOW GALLERY: OPEN SOURCE 05 – ELIZABETH GLEAVE

1 March - 31 March 2019

Past Exhibitions

DIGITAL WINDOW GALLERY: OPEN SOURCE 04 – LEIA MORRISON

1 February - 28 February 2019

Past Exhibitions

Here And Now

19 February - 23 February 2019

Exhibitions

PAULINE ROWE & DAVE LOCKWOOD – THE ALLOTMENTS

29 August - 28 September 2019

Exhibitions

TABITHA JUSSA & JOHN DAVIES – CAN’T SEE THE WOOD FOR THE TREES

6 June - 4 July 2019

Exhibitions

Stephanie Wynne and Stephen McCoy — Triangulation

18 July - 24 August 2019

Exhibitions

Yan Wang Preston — Forest

6 June - 28 September 2019

Exhibitions

LIZ HINGLEY – SHANGHAI SACRED

6 June - 25 September 2019

Main Exhibition

Kinship

9 May - 7 July 2019

Past Exhibitions

DIGITAL WINDOW GALLERY: OPEN SOURCE 03 – OLLIE HAYWARD

1 January - 31 January 2019

Past Exhibitions

DIGITAL WINDOW GALLERY: OPEN SOURCE 02 – RACHEL GLASS

1 December - 31 December 2018

Projects Exhibitions

209 Women

28 February - 14 April 2019

Past Exhibitions

DIGITAL WINDOW GALLERY: OPEN SOURCE 01 – HEATHER GLAZZARD

1 November - 30 November 2018

Projects Culture Shifts

Where Things are Different

15 August 2017

Past Exhibitions

She Dreams – Yan Wang Preston

24 September - 10 February 2018

Past Exhibitions

Wake Up Together

15 November - 17 February 2019

Exhibitions

DISTINCTLY

27 September - 24 November 2019

Projects

209 Women Crowdfunder

6 September - 17 October 2018

Past Exhibitions

XU ZHEN: OPTIMIZING

13 July - 7 September 2018

Past Exhibitions

HIDDEN WORLDS

14 July - 16 July 2018

Past Exhibitions

New Brighton Revisited

14 July - 25 August 2018

Exhibitions

SEEING FUTURES: HUGH BAIRD PHOTOGRAPHY UNDERGRADUATES & ALUMNI

29 June 2018

Past Exhibitions

‘ELLESMERE PORT’ WHITBY HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT EXHIBITION

22 June 2018

Past Exhibitions

Liverpool Biennial 2018: Beautiful World Where Are You?

14 July - 28 October 2018

Past Exhibitions

China Conversation

17 June 2018

Projects

MA Course Brief

1 September 2018

Main Exhibition

Our North

28 March - 30 March 2018

Past Exhibitions

Snapshot to WeChat: A Migration of Identity

6 April 2018

Exhibitions Main Exhibition

The Pier Head – Tom Wood

12 January - 25 March 2018

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© Michelle Sank
© Michelle Sank
© Michelle Sank
© Michelle Sank

POSTERS, PLUSHIES AND POTS OF SUDOCREM: SPOTLIGHT ON MY.SELF BY SAM PHASEY

believe in God   culture – have lots’

My.Self, produced by photographer Michelle Sank and Sandwell-based community art company Multistory, is an examination of the Black Country’s varied youth. The series echoes work that Multistory has pursued with Martin Parr in the Black Country previously (Black Country Stories, 2010). An intimate series of bedroom vignettes, the portraits catalogue a diversity of cultures, experiences, hopes and aspirations. What does it mean to be a young person in today’s society? What does it mean to live in the Black Country?

‘The yam yam accent gets too much sometimes’

 Faces and poses range from insecure to assured. Some of the teenagers perch on bed corners, some crouch on bunk ladders. Others meet the camera’s gaze with confidence (feigned or sincere), or uncomfortably stare at some unknowable point on the carpet. Outfits, similarly, run the gamut from from school-wear to sports-wear to sequins and sparkles.

‘Casual for college. Classy for eveningwear.’

The rooms, however, articulate as much about the youths as their attire, expressions and postures do: floral wallpapers and white bedspreads are both consonant and discordant with the subjects lying against and on top of them. These small clashes and co-ordinations evoke a nuanced, intimate knowledge of the subjects. From dollhouses to dermatology, each bedroom relays the individual’s interests through their clutter, whether spartan, or swarming with miscellany— shelves and surfaces decorated with autobiographical ornaments— posters, plushies and pots of Sudocrem. Between these and other details, we infer relatable narratives of teenage obsessions, angsts and anxieties: what pictures used to hang from those errant nails? What outpourings of emotion imprinted themselves on that paintwork?

‘I love my family. I barely know half of them but I still love them all regardless’

 Conversely, in one instance, the subject’s wall is so neutral, so unadorned, that elements from the photo overleaf begin to bleed through, creating a palimpsest that binds the two images together. This accidental enmeshing perhaps calls into question the otherwise isolating format of the portraiture— is it wholly apposite for a community orientated project?

 ‘I Pray sometimes’

Nonetheless, the portraits’ mise-en-scène is highly successful in providing us with access to the individual youths’ lives— their worlds— from comic books and cosplay to harps and helmets. The subjects are as diverse in their interests as in their identities, if the two can be meaningfully separated.

‘I would like to be a choreographer or dancer

The photographs were planned with the active engagement of the subjects: ‘[w]e asked them to consider the particularities and specifics of their clothes and make-up’. This collaborative, conscious process results in an almost performative quality emerging in the photos: what we are made privy to is not only intimacy, but intimacy which knows it is intimate. The subjects’ vulnerability is— to a certain extent— constructed, guarded. Consequently, as much as they are identity documents, the photographs also reflect the youths’ self-perception, and the way they choose to situate themselves in the world.

‘I believe we are all equal, Sexuality, Religion, Race’

 Each portrait is sparsely captioned with the first names of the teens, drawing out, rather than drowning out, each individual’s personhood, and allowing the photographs to elucidate the details. The images are, however, presented alongside a series of paper questionnaires that have been filled in by other Black Country youths: ‘What do you like about yourself?’ ‘Where do you see yourself in 10 years?’ ‘How do you feel about religion or culture?’ The A4 proportioned forms’ programmatic listing of likes, dislikes, dreams and descriptions contrasts with the organic processes of discovery and interpretation that we undertake when engaging with the photographs themselves. That said, each is handwritten— framed by scribbles and scratches— and from those lapses, that authorial exercise of intent and accident, we glimpse the same richness and diversity of personhood evinced by the photographs themselves.

 ‘I would like to have published novels’

When viewing this series it is, of course, difficult for any audience not to feel haunted by their own teenage experiences and aspirations. The poses, gazes and expressions of the youths inspire fleeting reminiscences— a sort of introspective saudade or sehnsucht— a fragmentary remembrance of one’s past selves. Passions and anxieties re-emerge— was I once that scared, that ashamed? Or was I that strong, that assured?

‘Edgy, Androgynous, Grunge, Dark, Plaid’

Michelle Sank has also contributed work to the SIXTEEN project, a thematically similar portraiture series, which is currently exhibiting throughout Liverpool at Open Eye Gallery, Tate Liverpool Exchange and Ropes and Twines.

My.Self is currently available in the Open Eye Gallery independent book shop for £15.

 

 

Words: Sam Phasey

Images: Michelle Sank

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