Mark McKnight Heaven is a Prison, 2020
Heaven is a Prison by Mark McKnight is an exploration of intimacy with and within the austere terrain of Southern California’s high desert. The book includes an essay by novelist Garth Greenwell.
In Heaven is a Prison, McKnight describes a queer otherworld that is at once utopic and purgatorial – occupied by a solitary pair of copulating, Sisyphean protagonists that appear both liberated and bound by their intimacies and the severe expanse in which they are depicted.
Divided into chapters, the poetic sequences in this book oscillate between the literal and the figurative, between distance and communion, and between violence and affection.
Claustrophobic, horizonless landscapes are coupled with images of ethereal clouds and tangled bodies that are simultaneously sculptural, shrewd, and tender.
Through his synonymous description of landscape and body, McKnight suggests metaphor, pointing at both as vehicles – towards transcendence, bondage, beauty, and abjection – while also revealing them as two sides of the same coin.
Heaven is a Prison is the recipient of the 2020 Light Work Photobook Award, given annually to an artistic project that deserves international attention.