Sharon Hayes @ The Common Guild

Sharon Hayes makes a touching and complicated exhibition from extended engagement with different lesbian archives, including those at the Glasgow Women's Library.

Review by Adam Benmakhlouf | 09 Nov 2016

Echoing through the floors of The Common Guild, Sharon Hayes' Our Little Corner of the World sounds itself out through the building as different voices reading aloud letters written to different lesbian publications and newsletters from the 60s and 70s.

Projected onto plywood hoarding, the large video installation spans two floors. The large structures bissect the space diagonally as part of the room is completely screened off in the first gallery, and a new corridor is created in the second. This new configuration and roughness engages or effaces the smooth finish and elegant detailing of the rooms that house them.

Also emphasing the homeyness of the former townhouse, the different fixed shots show different rooms of a single house. In these settings, ten or so different people revoice these letters from different UK and US archives (including the Glasgow Women’s Library). Their writers variously ask to cancel their subscription out of fear of being found out by snooping neighbours in mailboxes, or around their home by unsuspecting family members. There’s also much discussion of the place of the butch lesbian and transvestism within gay communities, and calls to exclude closeted women or accounts of painful intersections of gender, race and sexuality.

A soft daylight illuminates the filmed space, as well as the gallery. Though the windows are thinly papered over, the image is at points bleached out by sunshine, making itself contingent on the changing daylight.

Speaking out these accounts of anxieties and feelings into these home/gallery spaces, the living room, bedroom and kitchen and exhibition space feature as ambivalently safe and invaded by contested and variously close-to-bone histories.

Until 4 Dec