Jeremy Deller is an art historian turned conceptual artist whose work explores the cultural and political heritage of Britain and its folklore. His collaborative and socially-engaged practice is represented in a mid-career retrospective entitled Joy in People at the Hayward Gallery, London. Collaboration and participation are central to Deller’s work: “A good collaboration is like going on a long journey without a map, never knowing quite where you will end up”. His projects include, Acid Brass, 1997, persuading a brass band to record acid house anthems; a memorial to a north London cyclist killed by a reckless driver; and a work proposed for the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square in 2008, the wreckage of a car entitled Baghdad, 5 March 2007, salvaged after the bombing of the Al-Mutanabbi Street book market in Baghdad, Iraq, which resulted in the deaths of 38 people and was also taken on a road journey through the USA in 2009. The exhibition incorporates almost all of his major works to date including installations, photographs, videos, posters, banners, performance works and sound pieces.
The Hayward exhibition has reassembled the space and adjoining bathroom in which he staged his earliest exhibition in 1993, which took place in his bedroom at his parent’s house in South London. Open Bedroom, displayed objects such as silkscreened T-shirts: ‘My Drug Shame’, ‘My Booze Hell’ and ‘They Fuck You Up Your Mum and Dad’, pinned-up pop posters, and newspaper clippings. Visitors can order a strong cup of coffee and sit on red plastic chairs at a meticulous reconstruction of a greasy spoon cafe from Bury Market in Lancashire called Valerie’s Snack Bar, originally created as a float for a procession Manchester’s International Festival in 2009. Part of the exhibition includes a section called My Failures – ideas that were never realised. These are both absurd – getting Iggy Pop to pose for life-drawing classes before a group of unsuspecting artists – and brave – proposing a statue of Dr David Kelly looking as if he was about to jump from the Fourth Plinth at Trafalgar Square.
“Deller’s work investigates cultural forms and historical processes, focusing on the creative ways in which social histories are made, shared, altered, and remembered. Acting as a producer, orchestrator, curator, or director of a range of projects—including films, processions, historical reenactments, demonstrations, exhibitions, and publications—the social aspects of a project or place often become a central medium of his work.”
The Battle of Orgreave, 2001, is a historical re-enactment of the 1984 National Union of Mineworkers strike, a bitterly fought dispute that lasted for over a year, marking a turning point in the struggle between the government and the trade union movement. On 18 June 1984 the Orgreave coking plant was the site of one of the strike’s most violent confrontations. It began in a field near the plant and culminated in a police cavalry charge through the village of Orgreave. Deller’s film intercuts stills from the clashes in 1984 with footage re-enacted in 2001, together with eye-witness testimonies of the event.
Jeremy Deller – selected biography: Born in London in 1966, Jeremy Deller is a British artist who makes politically and socially charged performance works. He studied Art History at the Courtauld Institute, London and at Sussex University. He met Andy Warhol in 1986 and spent two weeks at the Factory in New York. He won the turner Prize in 2004.
Baghdad 5 May 2007
Open Bedroom, 1993. Exhibition view, Joy in People, Hayward Gallery
Valerie’s Snack Bar, 2009
Still from The Battle of Orgreave, 2009
Jeremy Deller: Joy in People. Hayward Gallery, South Bank Centre, London. Wednesday 22 February 2012 – Sunday 13 May 2012. Curated by Ralph Rugoff, Director of the Hayward Gallery.