AboutJo Spence (1934 1992) was a key figure on the UK photographic scene from the mid seventies and crucial in debates on photography and the critique of representation. Her work engaged with a range of photographic genres, from documentary to Phototherapy. Through her own artistic practice and teaching, which are very closely linked, she rigorously explored complex issues of class, gender, health and the body, combining personal experience, political understanding and critical theory. The work produced near the end of her life dealt directly with her experience of having cancer and the treatment she received by the medical establishment.
The exhibition offers UK audiences an unprecedented opportunity to experience a major survey of her work across both Studio Voltaire and SPACE. The content will comprise of key photographic works alongside documentary and archive material. Chronologically split across the two sites, the exhibition will bring together rarely seen works loaned from international public collections as well as materials from the Jo Spence Memorial Archive that have not been previously exhibited.
SPACE's presentation will focus on Spence's work from the late 1960's to the early 1980's, and will include Spence's early commercial work, documentary photography and collaborative projects, as well as key series such as Beyond The Family Album (1978 -79) and Remodeling Photo History (with Terry Dennett, 1982) that deal with body politics and representations of the family. Studio Voltaire will present later works from the early 1980's up to the artist's death in 1992. These works broadly deal with issues of health, therapy and self-empowerment. The exhibition will also include The Final Project (with Terry Dennett, 1991-92), a series conceived when Spence was diagnosed with leukaemia that has not been previously been exhibited. Elements of the exhibition will tour to White Columns, New York in 2013.
As an integral part of the project, Studio Voltaire is launching Not Our Class. This new long-term programme of education and participatory projects will take the work of Jo Spence as a starting point for investigating the legacy and potentials of her work in relation to contemporary culture and life. Through a series of commissions, offsite projects, workshops, public events and reading groups situated both within Studio Voltaire's neighbourhood and contemporary art discourse the programme will explore the new turn towards education and participation within contemporary art practice. The programme will include new commissions by artists Emma Hedditch, Marysia Lewandowska and Rehana Zaman, working with The Jo Spence Memorial Archive, Lambeth Women's Project, Intoart, King's College Hospital and Body & Soul.
The exhibition is made in collaboration with Terry Dennett and the Jo Spence Memorial Archive.
Supported by Stanley Thomas Johnson Foundation and The Andy Warhol Foundation for Visual Arts.
Not Our Class is supported by Bloomberg and by the National lottery through Arts Council England.