The artworks featured in this publication were created over the last decade, after Julia Phillips moved from Germany to the United States, and reflect her interests in postcolonial studies, social belonging, diaspora, psychoanalytic theory, gender studies, and Black feminist thought. The decision to have all texts translated into the artist's first language, German, was led by her wish to contribute to an exchange of discourse and of culture between the English- and German-speaking regions in which her work is exhibited. The title describes a conceptual framework: taking its cues from Phillips's sculptural practice, it implies something transactional, referring simultaneously to physical, mechanical, psychic, and spiritual exchange.
"Julia Phillips' sculptures, installations, videos, and works on paper engage with complex modalities that consider how we look, how we see, and how we are seen. The means of looking—the eyes—come into serious focus as a device for seeing and for recognition. Other phenotypes are suggested through size, proportion, texture, and color, as well as literal casts of the artist's body, to indicate one's observable traits—height, complexion, gender—from one's anatomy to how one moves and how one's body behaves. These markers dictate how we exist in the world and how we are apprehended."
—Daniella Rose King
Inspired by tools and other functional objects, the sculptures of Julia Phillips (born 1985 in Hamburg, lives and works in the USA) are metaphors for social and psychological experiences. These metaphors are both mechanical and bodily, and the experiences they describe typically focus on power relations between individuals or between an individual and an institution. Her sculptures often feature ceramic elements cast from her own body. Their glazed finishes replicate a range of flesh tones in layered colors, which Phillips achieves by firing them multiple times. Many of the sculptures include recurring elements, such as handles or wing nuts, that encourage the viewer to envision direct physical engagement with the work. The human body is also a principal subject of her drawings, prints, and videos. "I think of the body as a symbol to make psychological, social, and emotional experiences and relations visually accessible," she has said. "Sometimes the body can help us to identify with experiences that are not our own."