14 Feb 2018

Amongst the Neon and the Nudity

Tucked away in one of the booths, between the numerous depictions of the human form in all its variety, and the neon glow of Tracey Emin’s When I Think about Sex I Think about Men, Women Dogs, Lions, Group Sex (And I Love you All), Charlotte Prodger’s BRIDGIT has the potential to be overlooked. It is more often given a five minute head-around-the-curtain glance in passing, before you’re drawn to the alluring sound of yodelling from Isaac Julien’s The Long Road to Mazatlan. But BRIDGIT is captivating in its own way; when experienced you are transported into a personal and memorable archive on identity. For me, this has become one of the highlights of the Coming Out exhibition.

Titled after the Neolithic goddess associated with fertility and healing, BRIDGIT expresses the abstract process of time, and the loss of self we all feel at some point in life. The film transitions from the domestic privacy of the home, to the vast expanse of nature, in a slightly jarring yet engaging juxtaposition.


BRIDGIT (2016), Charlotte Prodger ©The artist

I find that BRIDGIT depicts the tension between the public and private self and the idea of “coming out” in a way that is relatable to people inside and outside of the LGBTQ+ community. We hear retellings of awkward interactions Prodger has had with strangers, and in response her self-judgement for appearing “closeted.” This is accompanied by beautiful, yet isolated imagery. The film has also been entirely shot on Prodger’s phone, which gives it an added intimacy. In private spaces we see the rise and fall of her chest that the phone is balanced on, and in turn you find yourself mimicking her breathing pattern. The surface calm of the visuals and the diaristic nature in which she shares her day-to-day events makes for an almost therapeutic experience, despite the negative nature of some of the encounters she recalls.


BRIDGIT (2016), Charlotte Prodger ©The artist

By subtly sharing her journey of healing from a hysterectomy, Prodger exposes herself in BRIDGIT in a different manner to many of the artworks surrounding it. The poignant message of how our identity isn’t static, and how deities of the past had numerous names depending on what stage of existence they were in (old, middle aged, and young), feels to me like a personal reflection of her medical procedure, and how it wasn’t necessarily negative. Yet historically, a woman is inherently a mother before she’s anything else.

Prodger discusses stereotypes and assumptions such as this throughout BRIDGIT, using ambiguous imagery and calming dialogue. She does not force, but rather suggests, the viewer be more open to the idea of change, and how the complexities of a person cannot all be assumed to fit into set categories. After the last image of an unwavering standing stone leaves the screen, you exit the booth and are met with a quote by film director Derek Jarman, it reads:

“Understand that Sexuality is as wide as the sea.”

This is another slight nudge for the viewer to reflect upon the exhibition and see that our gender, sexuality and identity isn’t what defines us, but as nature has the constant ability to change, so do we.


BRIDGIT (2016), Charlotte Prodger ©The artist