Since the late 1960s, Peter Kennard has been equipping his audiences with a deeper understanding of the violence, inequalities and injustices in our society, while actively protesting against them. Kennard’s subjects have ranged from The Vietnam War, apartheid, the nuclear arms race, and ecological crisis – to name but a few of the campaigns to which he is committed.

His preoccupation with the deceptions and cruelties of wealthy industrialised nations stems from his frustration with their domestic and foreign policies, which have real consequences for our daily lives.

The solo exhibition ‘The Concept of History’ links Kennard’s work to the political thinking of Hannah Arendt through their shared belief that history is a construct managed and controlled by those in power. In chapter two of Between Past and Future, Arendt asserts that “[History] became a manmade process.” It is a crucial line in which Arendt reminds us of the biases implicit in the writing of history, while indicating that historical accounts can be challenged and, when necessary, adjusted. In his work, Kennard combines found images to figure the making of history as shadowy and violent.

The artist on Hannah Arendt: Peter Kennard says “Hannah Arendt, in her own words, aimed at ‘thinking without a banister.’ In ‘The Concept of History,’ she wrote that ‘It is beyond doubt that the self-created risks mankind faces today have never been faced before.’ Her words resonate now, sixty years later, as we face climate catastrophe, increasingly deadly weaponry, racism, totalitarianism, Coronavirus, obscene wealth and poverty. She talked of ‘active citizenship’, confronting the world as it is. Making work about the here and now, banister gone, the stairs underneath are rotting, but Arendt’s writing teaches us this is where we’ve got to step.”

“On Hannah Ahrend” is a long term exhibition concept that will run through the whole of 2021 comprising the group exhibition ‘What is Authority?‘ that examines structural antagonism and everyday discrimination. With work by Lili Dujourie, Everlyn Nicodemus and Lerato Shadi. From June, Bracha L. Ettinger puts the audience in relation to Arendt’s question of the tragic fate of women in periods of war, especially the Holocaust, in ‘What is Freedom?’

Brazilian sound artist and music producer Laima Leyton creates a new sound piece in response to each chapter of Arendt’s Between Past and Future, available to experience on the gallery’s website as part of Saltoun Online and during live events held throughout the programme. Titled Infinite past, infinite future and NOW, the series engages with themes of time, culture, truth and spirituality. 

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Image // Peter Kennard, Untitled 3 (2020)​, 2020. Acrylic, charcoal, graphite, carbon toner, pastel on paper 111.5 x 76 cm © Peter Kennard. Courtesy the artist and Richard Saltoun Gallery

“On Hannah Arendt” // Peter Kennard // Richard Saltoun Gallery // London, UK // On view through December 2021 in various configurations //