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May 6, 2024
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Sharing, Building and Extending Lesbian Spaces With Mercury

When they are not behind the camera capturing lesbians in their bedrooms, they are behind the DJ decks making them dance. Meet Clem, a.k.a Mercury, as they just released their first book: lesbian in their bedroom.

At 21, Clem is a powerhouse. A fine arts student in Bourges, France, they mainly work with film photography, but also dab in writing, printing, DJing, video, and ceramics, to name a few. On top of their various artistic practices, they are also an event organizer: they started the Queer Fest, a queer festival in Bourges which they then developed in Paris, and Dyke’s Weapon, lesbian parties “for lesbians, by lesbians” originating from an Instagram account they had created to share work by lesbian artists. With the Dyke’s Weapon’s parties, they succeeded in breathing new life into the Parisian lesbian scene, creating a much-needed space that is not just tolerating but welcoming for all lesbians, not just cis ones. Open to all so that isolated lesbians without lesbian friends can come, the parties are a much-needed addition to the very limited range of possibilities for lesbians, even in Paris. Today though, we met with Clem to discuss their project, lesbian in their bedroom, which was finally published last week, after months of work. The photography project focuses on Clem’s favorite subject: intimacy.

  • Because of lesbophobia, we lesbians have for a long time - and for many still do - been limited to living our lesbianism within four walls, in the privacy of our own homes. How do you deal with this paradox by focusing on it in your work?

Home, especially the bedroom, is where our personality is most imprinted. The fact that lesbians are looking directly at the camera, that they are asserting themselves at home, is important. They say, ‘This is my home, this is my bedroom’. It's the place where they may have discovered they were lesbians, where they have grown, where they kiss their partners, where they hang up photos of their lesbian idols. For me, it's essential to document the lesbian bedroom and lesbians in their bedrooms.

  • What was the creative process like? How did you get to meet your models, how would you initiate the meeting?

It all started with a project called ‘Encré’ [Inked], in which I portrayed people with tattoos in a place that was intimate to them. It quickly slipped into something predominantly about lesbians because I was discovering myself more and more. So I decided to start a project on lesbians and focus on the bedroom because it's such an important place for me. It was also the photographer Adrienne Salinger who did a series of portraits of teenagers in their bedrooms in the 199

0s that made me want to depict people in their bedrooms. I made calls on Instagram to find lesbians who would be willing to open the doors of their bedrooms and have the photos shown in exhibitions and a book. I was very clear about that, it's very important in the photographer's approach. I came across models I didn't necessarily know, some of whom were people I knew, others I'd never met before in my life. We often had a cup of tea, chatted a bit, and then took some photos. When it came to dress code, I always insisted that people should feel at ease, and not feel obliged to get all dressed up. And then it would often end with me complimenting their bedrooms because lesbians have the best taste! I've met around thirty lesbians in total thanks to this project, and I've also taken photos of couples.

  • The couple’s pictures are so soft! They show young people that building a safe haven for yourself is possible.

Yes, it shows how you can create a little cocoon, sheltered from heteropatriarchy, that you can shape yourself outside of all that.

  • Was it hard to self-publish?

It seemed the most accessible because soliciting publishing houses is complicated and scares the hell out of me, so it's not going to do it just yet. I'm waiting for someone to approach me with a deal, in fact, I'd love to! Right now, I have to print in small batches because of my credit card limit.

  • Do you have any plans to extend the project?

Right now it's mainly lesbians from Paris and a few from Bourges. I'd like to do it elsewhere in France and abroad too. I'm dreaming of a 300-page archive of lesbians in their bedrooms, to publish a bigger book with lesbians from all over, and not just a Parisian-centred one.

  • How do you see intimate archives? Do you think we can or should show everything?

I've always thought that intimacy was political and that it was important to show it. There's a desperate lack of queer archives, especially lesbian archives. This project is a way of combining the two.

Lesbian in their bedroom is available to order via Clem’s Instagram page!

Courtesy of Mercury:

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