Peter Kennard, Archive of dissent

23 Jul 2024 – 19 Jan 2025
Whitechapel Gallery, London

Archive of Dissent marks one of the most extensive displays of Kennard’s work to date and has been specially conceived for Whitechapel Gallery. Taking over three galleries within the former Whitechapel Library space, the exhibition brings together work from across the artist’s prolific and influential five-decade career, offering an important repository of social and political history while illuminating an artistic practice that has continuously countered and protested the status quo.

Since the 1970s, Kennard has produced some of our most iconic and influential images of resistance and dissent. From the Vietnam War, Anti-Apartheid Movement, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), and Stop the War Coalition campaigns in the 2000s, through to the present wars in Ukraine and Gaza and his ongoing commitment to environmental activism, Kennard has developed a unique visual practice that bridges art and politics for a broad range of audiences.

Reflecting the history of the spaces’ former library function, Kennard’s proposition for the exhibition takes the form of an active and constantly evolving archive, much of which will be presented as printed material displayed on walls, placards, in vitrines or on lecterns. These include the newspapers where his images were first published, as well as the posters and books through which they continue to circulate.

The exhibition delves into the artist’s process of making, beginning with a selection of the distinctive photomontages he has been making since the 1970s. Inspired by the work of John Heartfield (1891–1968), who pioneered montage as a political tool in the 1930s, Kennard’s montages deconstruct familiar and ubiquitous images and re-imagines them through different formats and scales of publication. The works not only serve to expose the relationship between power, capital, war and the destruction of planet Earth but also ‘to show new possibilities emerging from the cracks and splinters of the old reality’.