‘Photo Therapy: My Mother’ (1988) was a collaboration with Valerie Walkerdine. In this work, Jo reuses props from an earlier series she made a decade earlier called ‘Remodelling Photo History: Colonization.’ In this diptych, Jo is pictured sweeping around two empty milk bottles, which are placed in front of her. She is purposely incorporating a traditional photography screen in the background, on which she stands, to highlight that this is a staged scene and she is performing on it.
In the original work, ‘Colonization,’ the two glass bottles are shown full of milk, with Jo standing on a doorstep, holding the same broom she now holds in ‘Photo Therapy: My Mother’. In the earlier work, Spence wore nothing but a towel wrapped around her waist and is otherwise naked, treating herself as an object for scrutiny and dissection. The work was an anthropological study of a woman in a colonized country, and overall, a critique on Britain’s own colonial history.
With ‘Photo Therapy: My Mother,’ Spence has further developed the piece to show how the woman herself has evolved. She is shown wearing traditional house clothes from the 1950s and 1960s, but brutally, nothing has really changed: the woman is still at home, she is still cleaning and feeding her family, providing for them. Ultimately, the work is a critique of the status quo of the decade that passed between the execution of the two works.
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