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On the 20th anniversary of Jo Spences’ death this exhibition offers an opportunity to experience the feminist photographer’s practice first hand.
Jo Spence (1934–92) emerged as a key figure in the mid 1970s from the British photographic left, crucial in debates on photography and the critique of representation. Her work engaged with a range of photographic genres, from documentary to photo therapy, and responded to the prioritisation from the late 1970s onwards of lens-based media in art-critical discourse.
Rough edged, recycled, personal — in essence positively amateur, Spence’s work stands in direct opposition to numerous artistic givens. She proposed process over object, collaboration and collectivity over heroic authorship and, above all, generosity (to self and other) over the pursuit of any singular creative ambition. While adroit with its arguments, she swerved the academic theorisation of photography, preferring an experimental and biographical exploration of ideas. This resulted in a richly didactic yet highly idiosyncratic output, one that is playful, silly even at times, while also being capable of delivering images of excoriating intensity.
Spence held the firm belief that photography has an empowering capacity when applied to complex issues of class, power, gender, health and the body. From this perspective she rallied against all forms of hegemony, dominance and control. Her critical concerns, be they with the idea of naturalism in the documentary image or protocols within the National Health Service, became the primary productive principal for her output, drawing her into action — variably as an artist, writer, activist, community leader, adult educator and patient.
Work (Part I) (1970-1982)
Space, 129—131 Mare Street, London E8 3RH
1 June – 15 July 2012
Preview: Thursday 31 May 2012, 6 – 9pm
Work (Part II) (1982-1992)
Studio Voltaire, 1a Nelson Row, London SW4 7JR
12 June – 11 August 2012
Wednesday – Saturday, 12 – 6pm
Preview: Monday 11 June 2012, 6.30 – 8.30pm