Olivia Plender

Life Reform

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Year 2020
Medium Pencil on paper
Dimensions 29.7 x 21 cm
Top pick Aaron Cezar, Director of Delfina Foundation

About the work

Lebensreform (“life reform”) was a social movement in the late 19th and early 20th century in Germany and Switzerland that advocated for a back to nature lifestyle, with a focus on healthy food, vegetarianism, nudism, sexual liberation and alternative medicine. This can be considered as a precursor to the 1960s hippy movement, and were a huge influence on the Kibbo Kift Kindred, a British youth movement of the 1920s, whom I have made many projects about.

About the artist:

Born 1977 London, Olivia Plender lives and works in Stockholm and London.

Plender’s work often starts with specific moments or developments in social history – what we think we know about the past inevitably shapes what we believe is possible in the future. She is interested in the relationships between gender, power and authority – who claims the right to speak in public, how the ‘rational’ is defined, which voices are taken seriously, and she inversely listen to those voices that are not. For instance, she has recently been collaborating with grassroots feminist organisations on a project about the East London Federation of the Suffragettes, who attempted to establish a model for a new socialist feminist society in one of the poorest areas of the UK. In the resulting artworks, she explores both what we can learn today from this early-twentieth-century political and educational experiment and how that history has been written.

Selected solo exhibitions include Neither Strivers Nor Skivers, They Will Not Define Us, The Bower, London (2021); Social Construction, Portal, Södertälje Konsthall (2021); Practicing Politics: The Fogelstad Women’s Citizenship School 1922–1954, Tensta Konsthall, Stockholm (2019); Olivia Plender, Maureen Paley, London (2016); Many Maids Make Much Noise, ar/ge kunst, Bolzano (2015); Rise Early, Be Industrious, MK Gallery, Milton Keynes (2012); and Rise Early, Be Industrious, Arnolfini Gallery, Bristol (2012). Selected group exhibitions Artissima, Fondazione Torino Musei, Turin (2020); Not Without My Ghosts, Drawing Room, London and touring (2020); At the Gates, La Criée Contemporary Art Center, Rennes (2019); Idiorhythmias: A programme of performances, music, poetry, laboratory and text, MACBA, Barcelona (2019); The Expanded Field, Lismore Castle Arts (2018); At the Gates, Talbot Rice Gallery, Edinburgh and touring (2018); and Under Pressure – On Forms of Authority and Decision-Making Power, frei_raum Q21 exhibition space, Vienna (2018).

Awards and residencies include Lead Faculty/artist in residence – Society is a Workshop, Banff Centre (2013); Arbeitsstipendium Bildende Kunst des Landes Berlin (2012); and Arts Council England, Research and Development Grant (2012).

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