Jeremy Deller (1966 – )
Jeremy Deller (b. 1966, London; lives London) studied Art History at the Courtauld Institute and at Sussex University. He began making artworks in the early 1990s, often showing them outside conventional galleries. In 1993, while his parents were on holiday, he secretly used the family home for an exhibition titled Open Bedroom.
Four years later he produced the musical performance Acid Brass with the Williams-Fairey Band and began making art in collaboration with other people. In 2000, with fellow artist Alan Kane, Deller began a collection of items that illustrate the passions and pastimes of people from across Britain and the social classes. Treading a fine line between art and anthropology, Folk Archive is a collection of objects which touch on diverse subjects such as morris dancing, gurning competitions and political demonstrations. The Folk Archive became part of the British Council Collection in 2007 and has since toured to Shanghai, Paris and Milan.
In 2001 Deller staged The Battle of Orgreave, commissioned by Artangel and Channel 4, directed by Mike Figgis. The work involved a re-enactment which brought together around 1000 veteran miners and members of historical societies to restage the 1984 clash between miners and police in Orgreave, Yorkshire. In 2004, Deller won the Turner Prize for Memory Bucket (2003), a documentary about Texas. He has since made a number of documentaries on subjects ranging from the exotic wrestler Adrian Street to the die-hard international fan base of the band Depeche Mode.
In 2009 Deller undertook a road trip across the US, from New York to Los Angeles, towing a car destroyed in a bomb attack in Baghdad and accompanied by an Iraqi citizen and a US war veteran. The project, It Is What It Is, was presented at Creative Time and the New Museum, New York and the car is now part of the Imperial War Museum’s Collection. In the same year he staged Procession, in Manchester, involving participants, commissioned floats, choreographed music and performances creating an odd and celebratory spectacle. During the summer of 2012 Sacrilege, Deller’s life-size inflatable version of Stonehenge – a co-commission between Glasgow International Festival of Visual Art and the Mayor of London - toured around the UK to great public acclaim.
In 2013 he represented Britiain at the Venice Biennale with a multi-faceted exhibition titled, 'English Magic'. Encompassing notions of good and bad magic, socialism, war, popular culture, archeology and tea the exhibition gave a view of the UK that was both combatitive and affectionate.
Deller has exhibited widely around the world and selected monographic exhibitions include: Unconvention (1999, Centre for Visual Arts, Cardiff), After the Goldrush (2002, Wattis Institute, San Francisco), Folk Archive with Alan Kane (2004, Palais de Tokyo, Paris and Barbican Art Gallery, London), Jeremy Deller (2005, Kunstverein, Munich), From One Revolution to Another (2008, Palais de Tokyo, Paris), It Is What It Is: Conversations About Iraq (2009, New Museum, NY, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, and Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago), Processions (2009, Cornerhouse, Manchester) and Joy in People at the Hayward Gallery which is currently touring in the US; showing at the Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania and the Contemporary Art Museum St Louis. For details visit Jeremy Deller's artist website.
Jeremy Deller is represented by The Modern Institute, Glasgow, Galerie Art:Concept, Paris and Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, New York
Existing or coming into being at the same period; of today or of the present. The term that designates art being made today.
The term ‘Documentary’ was not coined until the 1920s, and then used by the British film-maker, John Grierson, to refer to moving pictures. It has a long and continuous history in British photography, reaching back to the invention of the medium. Many critics claimed that the documentary impulse, which can perhaps be best defined as the systematic recording of visual reality for the purpose of providing information and encouraging understanding of the world, is inherent in the medium itself. It was this view which came to be known as the realist paradigm - the belief that a photograph represents a ‘slice of reality’ easily understood by the viewer. This belief governed understanding of photography from the moment of its invention in the era of positivism in the 19th Century, until it was itself subject to interrogation in the 1980s.
Early British practitioners included John Thomson whose visual essay Street Life in London (1876) documented the life of the London poor, and Hill and Adamson who portrayed, in the mid 1840s, the customs and way of life of the fisher folk of Newhaven near Edinburgh. In the early 20th century, following the emergence of documentary film-making and Mass Observation (a study undertaken in the North of England by the anthropologist Tom Harrisson), this new aesthetic found its most persuasive outlet in the mass circulation weekly magazines, such as Picture Post and Life. In time, however, pressure from advertisers combined with the restrictions of group journalism and curtailed the independence of creative photographers, with only exceptional individuals such as Bill Brandt able to survive as both a photojournalist and an independent photographer. His images of Britain’s class-ridden society along with his more experimental nudes, portraits and landscapes had a profound influence on a younger generation and established Brant as a major creative force in the development of modernism in Britain.
Mass Observation was designed to emulate the radical achievements of the worker-photography movement which had arisen in Germany during the 1920s. It proved influential on the evolution of British documentary, especially on those photographers associated with the Side Gallery in Newcastle. The gallery fostered a regional, community-oriented form of documentary practice. Its philosophy was rooted firmly in the notion that an authentic document can only be generated by those familiar with the local community. Photographers associated with Side Gallery included Sirkka Konttinen, Isabella Jedrecyck, Graham Smith, Peter Fryer, Chris Killip and Julian Germain.
It was, however, across the Atlantic that the more enduring legacy concerning the ethics and status of documentary was to be found in the work of the photographers employed by the Farm Security Administration to document the plight of the American rural poor during the Depression. One of its outstanding photographers was Walker Evans whose use of signs and symbols (such as billboards and advertising hoardings) as images of desire created a text or narrative to accompany the careful sequencing of images. The direct inheritors of the photograph as social sign were the American photographers of the ‘social landscape’, namely Lee Friedlander, Garry Winogrand and Diane Arbus whose unsympathetic vision of the American landscape reflected the anxieties of urban life during the booming consumer decade - store fronts, billboards, graffiti and advertising. They chose to portray people, situations and artefacts in a casual and objective way that allowed the viewer to interpret the work freely; a strategy that became known as the ‘snapshot aesthetic’. One of those who experienced many of these developments first hand was the British photographer Tony Ray-Jones. His work was widely reproduced in the 1960s and his book A Day Off (1974) proved a particular inspiration for the generation of documentary photographers who developed in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
The work of early documentary photographs can be found in the collections of the Royal Photographic Society www.rps.org)
The Mass Observation archive is held by the University of Sussex www.sussex.ac.uk/library/massobs/
The work of the Side Gallery can be seen at www.amber-online.com/gallery/
The archive for the Farm Security Administration is now in the Print and Reading Room Collections of the Library of Congress in Washington www.loc.gov/rr/print