‘Anger Work’ was a collaboration with Tim Sheard. The title is quite telling: Jo’s work has always been driven by an anger at injustice in the world, from the early 1970s with her collaborative works with Terry Dennett though to this work, executed in 1988. Here she articulates this anger through her destruction of a printed phone directory, quite literally clawing, biting and ripping it apart.
Jo was inspired by Augusto Boal’s ‘The Theatre of the Oppressed,’ which demanded that people changed from spectators to active participants and actors. In this work we see Spence’s literal interpretation of Boal’s theories: she is physically acting out her rage and anger.
Her use of a telephone book is interesting as something which is thick and difficult to destroy. Through the listing of addresses and telephone numbers, in a vague and abstract way, Jo is referencing the traditional class system in Britain, the idea of being defined by where you live, where you grew up and where you went to school. The work demonstrates her anger against her working-class roots and the way class is more broadly defined in British culture.
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