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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Thursday, February 14, 2008
    20 Sites n Years
    At The Williamson Art Gallery today to see Tom Phillips' We are the People: Anonymous Celebrities, his collection of amateur postcards from the first half of the Twentieth Century, a wonderfully revealing and often moving series of portrayals of ordinary people by ordinary people. Well worth a look, or seeing the book.

    Phillips is exhibiting other works in Birkenhead too (though only till next Sunday) and on the way out, footsore and satisfied, this one caught my eye and hooked me. It's a map about journeying and change which Phillips calls South London Dreaming.

    "In the spirit of aboriginal English art I perform my South London Dreaming which includes a dreamwalk devised in 1972, the circle of locations for 20 Sites n Years and the long lines of my narrow life from my Clapham birthplace to where I now live and work. This is my life seen from above with occasional emphasized places of remembered romance or hard nosed fact."
    That is how Phillips describes the work. 20 Sites n Years particularly grabbed me. Phillips explains that 'every year on or around the same day (24th May - 2nd June) at the same time of day and from the same position a photograph is taken at each of the twenty locations on this map ... which is based on a circle of half a mile radius drawn around the place (Site 1: 102 Grove Park SE15) where the project was devised. It is hoped that this process will be carried on into the future and beyond the deviser's death for as long as the possibility of continuing and the will to undertake the task persist.'

    The 20 Sites n Years website features slideshows of all the photographs which have been taken in the twenty positions since 1973. It's an engrossing record of change in a small city area. Phillips' written commentaries on the changes and evolution of each site add to the fascinating rich picture which grows, of a deep South London previously unimagined. He's chosen not to stray too far away from home, ever, Tom Phillips, in his 70 years. Good thing, too.