While in London recently I was incredibly lucky to have finally seen some of Jo Spence’s work. She is someone I was pointed to several years ago as I was working on crafting my own illness narrative for my MA thesis in creative writing, and I’ve been fascinated by her ever since. While it was a thrill to see some of her stuff in person, I have mixed feelings about the show in general.
Having Ashery and Spence’s work in the same exhibit felt like too much to me, and almost as if the two were just thrown together because someone thought that since they both address the issue of bodies they must, therefore, go together. Didn’t work for me–too busy, and quite frankly, not very impressive visually-speaking.
To view Ashery’s work one could plunk down on beanbags, draped curtains creating little caves for each separate video viewing. Jo’s work hung on walls throughout the space, and also created various displays in the center of the room. A square table contained a selection of books deemed appropriate to the show’s themes, and also a question for exhibit-goers to answer on slips of paper: Do you feel healthy? Answers to this question are to aide Ashery in further research, and of course I took the time to scratch down some thoughts–I commented on the transient nature of my own health and how, at any moment, it can change for the worst despite the fact that I’m finally doing well (it only took me 8 years of trial and error with medications to get here!).
I’m not sorry I went, but how these two artists were mashed together seemed rather ill thought out to me, mostly where it concerns the physical space of the gallery. The selection of books was disappointing, too. Still, I got to see some of Jo Spence’s photographs and that was worth the visit.
Luckily, Ashery’s 12-part video series Revisiting Genesis can be viewed online–one does not have to travel to London. http://revisitinggenesis.net/
A video on Jo Spence and her work shown in the exhibit can also be viewed online. https://youtu.be/p-4s93Oj9mM
Another interesting short lecture on Jo Spence can be found here: https://youtu.be/rM5mWZrFQuU
And just to gain an understanding of the amount of material in her memorial archive this is a great video: https://youtu.be/MOCcTT6uiak