As the media marks the death of Margaret Thatcher with blanket television coverage looking back at her time in office some familiar images are brought back to mind. But sometimes it’s hard to disentangle the memories: which of the images am I really recalling from the 1980s? In the case of the images of the 1983/4 miners’ strike, the boundaries between news footage and re-enactment are very blurry in my head. I remember the strike very well; I remember the marches and the benefit gigs, I remember throwing money into collection buckets every day on my way to and from work, probably with a ‘coal not dole’ badge on my coat, and I remember the news reports. At least, I think I do. But there’s a distinct possibility that some of that memory is somewhat second hand. The images of Orgreave that are so clear in my mind come not just from the news reports of the time, shocking though they were, but also from Jeremy Deller’s 2001 re-enactment of the event, filmed by Mike Figgis.
Though I’ve mentioned this work in a previous post, it seems pertinent to make it the subject of a post now given that, like David Černý’s Quo Vadis, the basis of the work is a car as a signifier of world events. The car in Jeremy Deller’s It is what it is, was destroyed in a suicide bomb attack in Iraq in 2007. The mangled wreckage here, as is often the case in media reports of war, stands in for the destruction of human life, in this case the deaths of thirty eight people. Though we are all too used to seeing images of such vehicles, finding oneself confronted with the real thing is a wholly different experience. Deller has gone beyond this though and taken the wrecked car on a road trip around America, using it as a catalyst for discussion about Iraq.
There’s something different about London this summer. The Olympic feelgood factor coupled with a bit of actual sunshine after the seemingly interminable rain means we seem to have found ourselves in a mood to both celebrate our country and the odder aspects of its history and traditions and to jump about. On hand to help out – as part of the London 2012 Festival, the culmination of the Cultural Olympiad – is Jeremy Deller’s Sacrilege. As playful reworkings of our heritage go, a life-size bouncy castle version of Stonehenge certainly hits the spot (especially as it comes complete with anxious announcements about health and safety).
Jeremy Deller, Open Bedroom, 1993 (reconstruction)
Like David Shrigley, Jeremy Deller is an artist whose work doesnt always fit easily into the gallery space. Unlike Shrigley though, when his work is brought together as an exhibiton it exceeds expectations. Joy in People at the Hayward Gallery is a show that is much more than the sum of its parts. And there are some pretty great parts.
In 1993, while others were holding open studios, Deller staged Open Bedroom, his first exhibition, in his parents’ house while they were on holiday. The work, his teenage bedroom presented as art, is reconstructed here as the route into both the show and the head of the artist. We get to open drawers and cupboards and explore the ideas, images and objects that fascinated the young Deller. It’s a great start and a useful grounding for a show that picks up these enthusiasms and makes them art.