Online: ‘Autonomous Zone’ | Jo Dennis

Sid Motion Gallery presents Jo Dennis’ off site exhibition ‘Autonomous Zone’ to accompany the launch of the artist’s first book. ‘I touched this with my hand, I touched that with my eye’ with an essay by David Campany.

Launching online: 5th February 2021
6th – 13th February 2021


‘Autonomous Zone’ is a site specific installation made in a converted railway arch in South East London. This immersive installation consists of four constructed spaces and includes found objects, ultra violet lighting and material surfaces in mixed media, ​this film documents a walk through the spaces with the sound recorded in situ.

Dennis’ book brings together images of building sites, derelict spaces, rubbish found on the street and other areas of urban ruin alongside artworks and installations she has made. The book acts as a kind of hand book to her ongoing research into new and urban ruins, looking at the discarded objects left on streets as a way of understanding notions of temporality and nostalgia whilst questioning the role that materiality, surface and paint play throughout these spaces. The book contains an essay written by David Campany in response to Dennis’ work.

Taking her lead from David Campany’s essay, Dennis has created an installation which zigzags across process, materials and found objects. From studio into artwork and personal into public space, an environment where her concerns with time, mortality and residue sit hand in hand with her new book.

‘She makes work in different media, and each is itself understood as being thoroughly mixed. It is hard to look at some of the images here without thinking also about painting, or sculpture or performance, and it is hard to imagine the artist not being open to, and fascinated by this hybridity, this specific impurity. And I mention it because I suspect there is some deep connection between photography’s inevitable marginality and uncertainty as a medium, and the attraction that photographers have to marginal and uncertain spaces. The medium not being one thing or another finds itself well suited to spaces that are not one thing or another.’ David Campany

The transformation of the rail arch and adjoining courtyard speaks to the fluid construction, deconstruction and reconstruction of Kurt schwitters ‘Merzbau’ in which the artist creates a living installation which is in constant flux, responsive to their current thinking and concerns. Imagining this site as a ‘temporary autonomous zone’ reflecting on urban ruination, but also a kind of a secret escape from the urban. Working in contrast with the backdrop of the soundscape of the Old Kent Road. Taking inspiration from the stark and textural language of Andrei Tarkovsky film Stalker, Dennis’ painted surfaces, textures, rotten cloths, reused canvases, found objects allow for notions of temporality and shelter to be explored.

‘Autonomous Zone’


(of a country or region) having the freedom to govern itself or control its own affairs.


noun: zone; plural noun: zones
an area or stretch of land having a particular characteristic, purpose, or use, or subject to particular restrictions.
“a pedestrian zone”
(especially in sport) a state of such concentration that one is able to perform at the peak of one’s physical or mental capabilities.


‘I touched this with my hand, I touched that with my eye
Artist book, self published by Jo Dennis, with an essay by David Campany.
First edition run of 100.
Numbers 1-30 are special editions which contain a limited edition print and hand made unique inserts.

Book price £30
Special Edition book £90

Order your copy here


Jo Dennis and Sid Motion were in conversation for the launch of the ‘Autonomous Zone’ installation and ‘I touched this with me hand, I touched that with my eye’ book. The conversation discusses the exhibitions Jo has had with the gallery to date, and her practice to date.


Jo Dennis (b. 1973, UK) is a British multi-disciplinary artist working and living in London. She studied Fine Art and Contemporary Critical Theory at Goldsmiths College London
and is currently at Royal College of Art London MA Painting graduating in 2022. Her work has been exhibited in solo and group exhibitions both in the UK and internationally including at The Royal Academy of Arts and at the ICA London. Recent exhibitions include, Hurry Up Please, It’s Time, at Seen Fifteen Gallery London, A Kind of Solid Liquid, a solo show at Sid Motion Gallery London, a solo presentation in the Discovery section at Photo London and at Sluice Exchange a group exhibition in Berlin. She has been featured in the Financial Times Magazine, British Journal of Photography, The Washington Post, Unseen Platform, The Art Newspaper, Port, Fad Magazine and AnOther.
She is the co-founder of Asylum and Maverick Projects an artist lead organisation running project spaces in London. From 2016 – 18 she founded and curated AMP Gallery a not for pro t exhibition space. She is the co- founder of Peckham 24 Photography Festival and as part of this was the recipient of a Grants for the Arts from Arts Council England.