Students Staff

10 November 2016

Gee Vaucher: Introspective – Q&A with co-curator Stevphen Shukaitis

Oh America (1990, gouache on card)

Oh America (1990) gouache on card

A free spirit who was a huge influence on the punk aesthetic – artist Gee Vaucher is impossible to label. Now Gee Vaucher: Introspective, her first major UK exhibition, gives visitors to the Firstsite gallery in Colchester the chance to see her work brought together - including collage, photography, photomontage, painting, sculpture, film and performance. This includes the original material that would become the iconic record covers of the 1980s and the political posters which have influenced countless activist artists. We caught up with co-curator Stevphen Shukaitis from art history at Essex and Essex Business School to find out more about what it was like to develop a show surveying the work of such a significant, but perhaps underestimated artists.

What first drew you to Gee Vaucher’s work and what motivated you to stage this survey of her work?

I first came across Gee’s work as a teenager through Crass. There’s something immediately gripping about her imagery. It was only after moving to the UK that I was able to learn more about her much broader range of work. The impetus for the exhibition came out of discussions about nominating her for an honorary degree at the University of Essex. And I hope this exhibition will really get people to gain a fuller sense of the work Gee has done.

Vaucher seems like a staunchly independent spirit. Can you tell us a bit about how it was working together on this project?

Gee is truly a free spirit and so working with her means you are always dancing back and forth between simply magical and inspiring - while teetering on the edge of madness. It’s been great, and definitely a lot of work, but I’m very much looking forward to seeing it all come together.

Do you have a favourite work in the show?

It’s really hard to pick one work, especially across such a large exhibition taking up the entire museum. But I’m especially excited about getting to exhibit materials from EXIT, the performance art project Gee was in with Penny Rimbaud during the late 60s and early 70s. And that includes never before seen footage filmed in Colchester. The room with the large painting of children traumatized by having seen too much of the horrors of the world is especially moving as well.

Although she prefers not to be labeled, it seems as though Vaucher is definitely a feminist. How do you feel Vaucher’s work succeeds in pushing for gender equality whilst never explicitly saying that?

Gee’s work can clearly be seen addressing concerns that fit in with a feminist narrative. Gee doesn’t want to limit herself or her work by fixing it within any category, whether feminism, anarchism, or any other ism. But you can see throughout her work a clear and constant focus on questions of violence, the state, oppression, and the psychological effects of power and control. But she also hangs on to a resolutely utopian understanding that we can be different, that we can find other ways to live and be together, not stuck within the knots of those damaging relationships.


Gee Vaucher: Introspective (Firstsite website)

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