Today, The Photographers’ Gallery launches Soho Photography Quarter, a permanent new outdoor cultural space, presenting the very best of contemporary photography, for free.
Soho Photography Quarter opens today, following the refurbishment of Ramillies Place, which has transformed a previously overlooked Central London alley into a beautifully designed, pedestrianised space.
As a tranquil and accessible cultural zone, mere seconds from Oxford Street, Soho Photography Quarter will present a rotating, open-air programme of site-specific and interactive artworks, which will change twice a year. The presentations will feature a significant art frieze in the main square, large-scale over street banners, plus moving image projections, soundscapes and other interactive works depending on the project.
Alongside the changing artworks, the Gallery will present a rich and engaging programme of activities and resources. From live events, artist talks and presentations, to short films, sound installations and specially commissioned AR projects, accessibility to the ideas and inspirations behind the projects will be a key part of SPQ’s offer.
Christian Thompson: Being Human, Human Being
The opening presentation for Soho Photography Quarter, Being Human Human Being is by acclaimed Australian artist Dr. Christian Thompson. The installation is also one of the highlights of UK/Australia Season 2021-22, the largest ever cultural exchange between the two nations presented jointly by the Australian Government and the British Council.
Formally trained as a sculptor, Thompson’s multidisciplinary practice engages mediums such as photography, video, sculpture, performance and sound. Thompson’s works explore notions of identity, sexuality, gender, cultural hybridity, memory and history, often referring to the relationships between these concepts and the environment. Through performances and what he calls ‘anti-portraits’, he inhabits a range of personae achieved through incorporating handcrafted costumes and carefully orchestrated poses and backdrops.
The open-air exhibition will present selected works from the series’ King Billy (2010), Polari (2014), Equinox (2018) and Flower Walls (2018-ongoing), all of which reflect on indigenous and diverse representation. Thompson fuses both specific references and universal symbols to create a distinct, often unconventional visual language.
King Billy (2010) draws on traditional portraiture, fashion photography, advertising, music promos and mugshots. The images show an anonymised figure, wearing a brightly coloured hoodie made from a textile customised with indigenous motifs and further adorned with symbols of power and authority (crown, pearls, medals etc). Positioned against a black backdrop, the subject commands a striking formidable presence, yet eschews any specific identity.
The presentation includes audio visual work that investigates the loss of Indigenous languages. In a hauntingly beautiful new soundscape Phantom, (2022) Thompson sings in his father’s native language, Bidjara, now classified as extinct, against a melodic backdrop of instrument, breath and speech. In Dead tongue (2015) Thompson attempts to interrogate England’s imperial quest on the former colonies of the British Empire, the greatest the world has ever seen. In a second video projection, Amsterdam RMX (2020), Thompson presents a more direct and subjective experience of what the Bidjura language feels and sounds like. Here Thompson stands in front of a black backdrop cloaked in a hooded coat, singing to us with specs of snow rapidly falling in front of him.