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Turner Prize-nominated professor marks relaunch of acclaimed work

A Turner Prize-nominated University of Gloucestershire professor has joined forces with the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) to celebrate a new edition of his critically acclaimed book first published in the 1990s.

The launch of a new edition of Professor Richard Billingham’s Ray’s A Laugh, regarded as one of the most significant photobooks at the turn of the 20th century, will include a book signing, a Q&A with art critic and TV presenter Sacha Craddock, and a special screening of his feature-film debut Ray & Liz at the ICA on 26 March.

Formed of starkly intimate images of Professor Billingham’s parental home, the new edition of Ray’s A Laugh presents his original vision for his deeply personal work for the first time, including numerous unseen images.

Professor Billingham, Professor of Fine Art within the University’s School of Creative Arts, said: “The new edition of Ray’s A Laugh is an expanded, re-sequenced edition of the book first published in 1996, which is now out of print and very expensive to buy.

“I’m absolutely delighted that the new edition of Ray’s A Laugh, published by MACK, will allow a new set of people, especially the younger generation, to access to the work.”

Founded in 1946, the ICA commissions, produces and presents new work in film, music performance and the visual arts.

Reviews of Ray’s A Laugh:

Chris Wiley, The New Yorker, 29 February 2024:  A landmark look at family dysfunction … from today’s vantage it looks just as bracing and uncompromising as it did when it was originally released – and perhaps even more relevant in the post-Brexit era of increasingly intractable inequality.

Tim Adams, The Observer, 10 March 2024: The new edition is closer to Billingham’s original intention, even more full of complicated affection and disgust and black comedy and overwhelming anxiety about his family life. The flash lit shock of the original is preserved but is given depth and context in a series of previously unseen images.

Jim Lewis, Artforum, wrote of the first edition in 1996: Ray’s a Laugh is a parlour drama of sorts, as tightly composed as a Pinter play, and considerably more gruelling … it changed the way I looked at photographs, changed what I thought a photograph could do.