Two bodies of work pushing for the right to exist in our own skin on our own terms: Ren Hang UK premiere & Robin Hammond’s Where Love is Illegal.
Ren Hang’s photos play upon our sense of touch and the way that our bodies interact, both with our surroundings and each other. He often photographed his friends in Beijing, posed nude in domestic, urban and natural surroundings. His images are charged with a playful freedom to experiment. The fearlessness with which people present their naked selves in his images attracted the attention of Chinese authorities, who deemed the work to be pornographic.
As well as practising photography, Ren wrote poetry that sought to express the depression he felt, whilst also locating fleeting snapshots of same-sex intimacy. The exhibition title, Wake Up Together, is an excerpt from the body of work he produced throughout his lifetime. He took his own life in February 2017.
In 72 countries around the world, there are laws that discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex people. In many more countries, violence and prejudice against people who identify as LGBTQI+ is an all too present feature of society. Where Love Is Illegal shares stories from people who are surviving punishment and oppression to live and to love. It champions the right to live free of discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation, and supports those for whom this freedom is not a given. Where Love Is Illegal is led by photographer Robin Hammond and is a project by his non-profit organisation Witness Change.
All of the people who participate in the project worked with the photographer to decide how to present themselves and how they wish to be portrayed. The photos are accompanied by accounts of living through discrimination in cultures that remain hostile to how they love or how they identify, presented in their own handwriting. Where Love is Illegal is an evolving international project that invites anyone to share their personal stories through social media, to push towards a fairer world that allows people of all genders and sexualities to love without persecution. Stories can be shared through their online platform.
Wake Up Together is presented by Open Eye Gallery as part of Homotopia Festival 2018, the UK’s longest-running LGBT+ arts and heritage festival. It runs from 16 November to 17 February, with a launch night on 15 November that all are welcome to. Exhibition of Ren Hang’s work organised in cooperation with Stieglitz19, Belgium. Open Tuesday-Sunday, 10am-5pm. Entrance to Open Eye Gallery is free, always.