Jeremy Deller’s exhibition at Hayward gallery ranges from teenage bedrooms, Iggy Pop, recreated miner’s strike battles to 3D bat films
This exhibition starts with a mock-up of Jeremy Deller’s bedroom in his parents’ house, where he was still living in his mid-20s at the start of his artistic career. We’re upstairs in a middle-class suburban home, Deller’s collected 1980s paraphernalia covering the walls, postcards and ‘at home’ invites displayed in cupboards and draws, text works on the walls of the loo and a Union Flag heralding SUBURBIA. This recreation is a bit staid, a bit uncanny, a cleaned-up version of the real space Deller once occupied and in which he staged his Open Bedroom in the early 1990s while his parents were away; a long overdue teenage rebellion. In some ways we don’t leave this teenage bedroom throughout the whole show, a show that revels in the artist’s obsessions and unique way of thinking. Deller is an artist with no coherent style, but instead a tendency to grab hold of an idea and run with it to its logical conclusions. If something interests him, be it brass bands, acid house music, miners’ troubles, Iggy Pop, Depeche Mode fans or bats, he chases it and displays what he makes and accumulates along the way.
The Battle of Orgreave (Film Still)
His most famous piece is perhaps The Battle of Orgreave (2001), which is shown here alongside maps, plans, props and other archival materials related to its filming. The piece is a restaging of an extremely violent clash between miners and riot police that took place in Orgreave in the mid-1980s during the miners’ strike. What’s amazing is that the ex-miners taking part in this re-enactment (alongside battle re-enactors) are so willing to be involved; they don’t see it as a mad artist’s stunt that isn’t worth giving a second thought, but can see the value in re-visiting an event that is now part of local history. In fact repeating this community trauma seems to be part of a process of coming to terms with the past, in the way that reliving personal trauma can be an integral part of psychoanalysis, though Deller says in the film “This isn’t about healing wounds; it’s going to take more than an art project to heal wounds. But was definitely about confronting something; to look at it again and discuss it.”
Instigating discussion is something Deller seems keen to do and I felt like I was supposed to hang out and talk in this exhibition, with its café and chairs and mocked-up teenage bedroom. Valerie’s Snack Bar (2009), a dated diner-style café in the middle of the exhibition,offers free tea to help discussion along, but I’d just had expensive tea outside, so missed out on that one. It Is What It Is (2009), a group of chairs next to a burnt out car wreck, invites discussion on Iraq/US relations in an overt reminder that all art is there to be discussed seriously, but I did so without sitting. Despite this heavier subject matter it still felt like I was in a teenage conversation, one that can swing from politics to pop in one breath, and that has all the verve, naivety, belief in people and sense of possibility of youth. Deller’s explorations of cultural icons like Iggy Pop, Depeche Mode and Adrian Street (a transvestite heavyweight boxer), seem part and parcel of this youthful obsessive way of viewing the world, and act as lighter notes next to the works that deal with heavy political issues. Above all we get the sense that Deller does not work alone: he works in communities, in collaboration, appropriates objects made by others, commissions objects by skilled craftsmen and takes joy in people in all things provincially British.
Valerie’s Snack Bar
Deller’s 3D film, Exodus(2012), is something of an anomaly in this and is shown for the first time here. It is like a David Attenborough documentary, with its bats flying in their hundreds from a cave in Texas. It is aesthetically satisfying; the 3D is not used gratuitously but adds to our sense of how bats locate their surroundings and each other; but it is disjointed from the rest of the exhibition in that it does not engage with politics, culture, communities in the way the rest of the work does. But that is Deller’s trick; making sure we can’t quite predict his next move. Except, just next to the exit is a modest notice board telling us what Deller is planning next; posters pinned up in the style of a community hall or Scout hut, in another nod to the local, the unsung provincial, that so fascinates Deller.
Jeremy Deller: Joy in People is on at the Hayward Gallery, London until 13th May 2012. Tickets are joint with the exhibition David Shrigley: Brain Activity, which is shown upstairs, also until 13th May.