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History Lessons: Jo Spence’s Subjective Documentary

Siona Wilson, Associate Professor of Art History, City University of New York

May 29, 2019, 12 p.m.
VAF 366 (above Main Gallery, VAF 309), Visual Arts Facility, UC San Diego


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Professor Wilson will lecture on the work British photographer, Jo Spence (1934-1992), and her reconsideration of 1980s documentary practices. Together with collaborator Terry Dennett, Spence founded the Photography Workshop Ltd, a platform which served as an open resource with a common belief in the emancipatory potential of photography. Spence’s work gestures toward the contemporary explosion in social media and the networked image. Spence develops a form of “subjective documentary” during the artist's personal health crisis, which charts her interactions with both mainstream health professionals and alternative medical practitioners. Performing images from her family album, Spence allows us to rethink the definitions of feminism and the "subjective documentary" in light of the neoliberal monetization of the self.

Siona Wilson teaches in the Department of Art History at the City University of New York within its College of Staten Island and Graduate Center. Her research interests are grounded in issues of sexual difference, race, and sexuality at the intersection of art and politics in the twentieth century. Author of Art Labor, Sex Politics: Feminist Effects in 1970s British Art and Performance (Minnesota, 2014), Wilson has published on photography, experimental film, video, sound and performance art, in edited collections and journals, including Art History, October, Oxford Art Journal and Third Text. Her recent curatorial projects include I can’t breathe, at the Gallery of the College of Staten Island, featuring works in video and photography by Nona Faustine, Patricia Silva, Emma Wolukau-Wanambwa, and Kara Walker with a timeline of images documenting the activist group, Staten Islanders Against Racism and Police Brutality (SIARPB). She also co-curated Sexing Sound: Aural Archives and Feminist Scores (with Valerie Tevere and Catherine Karl) at the James Gallery, New York. Wilson’s new research relates to documentary, gender and state violence in a diverse range of geographic sites.

Image: Jo Spence, Remodelling Photo History: Victimization, 1979

Co-sponsored by Critical Gender Studies

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