The only shortlisted artist with any inspiration. But what does he do?

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Jeremy Deller is a good thing, that seems clear. It's certainly a good thing that he's won the Turner Prize. If he hadn't, one of the other three shortlisted artists would have won it, and that would have been a terrible mistake. Out of the four, Deller was the only one who had a spark of inspiration. But what exactly Deller does, what his art is made of, that's a little tricky.

Jeremy Deller is a good thing, that seems clear. It's certainly a good thing that he's won the Turner Prize. If he hadn't, one of the other three shortlisted artists would have won it, and that would have been a terrible mistake. Out of the four, Deller was the only one who had a spark of inspiration. But what exactly Deller does, what his art is made of, that's a little tricky.

The artist as social activist, social catalyst, as intermediary, facilitator, project manager, maker of connections and interconnections, that's the kind of way he works.

Deller, born in 1966, has organised exhibitions, performances, happenings, parades. His field is vernacular culture. There's very little that can be called "his own work". Everything he does involves and emphasises other people and their work, brass bands, male voice choirs, miners, the Manic Street Preachers and their fans, folk artists.

His most famous piece is The Battle of Orgreave (2001), a re-enactment of the most bitter point of the 1984 miners' strike, an event that brought together two apparently remote strands of English culture: trade unionism and civil war battle re-enactors. The conflict between the National Union of Mineworkers pickets and riot police was replayed on ground near to its original site, and a strange spectacle it was, part parody, part celebration, part memorial.

You might call Deller a memorial artist. Like a public memorial, his work is concerned with putting and keeping things in mind, in creating a focus for communal consciousness, its ideals and losses. His various happenings don't make anything happen, except in the imagination. His art seeks to stretch the social imagination, to make you feel the fabric of society in its complexity and density and reach.

Comments