Peter Kennard: Archive of Dissent

23 Jul 2024-12 Jan 2025

Whitechapel Gallery
London E1 7QX


Peter Kennard (b. 1949, UK) is a London-based artist and activist, and Emeritus Professor of Political Art at the Royal College of Art.

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’.

Archive of Dissent also includes two of Kennard’s most recent and ambitious installations Boardroom (2023) and Double Exposure (2023) which use light, glass and projection to deconstruct the medium of photomontage, as well as a new work, The People’s University of the East End (2024). Taking its title from the colloquial name for the former Library space, the work draws attention to its original purpose as a democratic local resource, while continuing to harness and evoke the iconography and forms of protest.

“My art erupts from outrage at the fact that the search for financial profit rules every nook and cranny of our society. Profit masks poverty, racism, war, climate catastrophe and on and on…Archive of Dissent brings together fifty years of work that all attempt to express that anger by ripping through the mask by cutting, tearing, montaging and juxtaposing imagery that we are all bombarded with daily. It shows what lies behind the mask: the victims, the resistance, the human communality saying ‘no’ to corporate and state power. It rails at the waste of lives caused by the trillions spent on manufacturing weapons and the vast profits made by arms companies.” – Peter Kennard