Turner Prize 2004 - Jeremy Deller

By David Prudames
Shows a photograph of a vast wall drawing, which is comprised of a a series of words or phrases connected with arrows.

Jeremy Deller. The History of the World 1997-2004. Courtesy the artist and The Modern Institute, Glasgow. Photo: © 24 Hour Museum.

Jeremy Deller is perhaps most famous for his recreation of one of the most powerful moments of the Miners Strike in 1984, the Battle of Orgreave.

But, it’s to another piece of inspired performance work that he is pointing with his giant wall drawing, The History of the World 1997-2004, which covers the whole of the wall opposite the entrance to the Turner Prize 2004 exhibition.

For 1997's Acid Brass, Deller invited a brass band to play reworked acid house anthems and his vast jumble of words, phrases and arrows illustrates his thinking behind it.

It traces the links between the Acid House scene of the late 1980s and the traditional brass band. Through the Miners Strike, de-industrialisation and privatisation to advanced capitalism, civil unrest and press hysteria over ecstasy and free parties the two become intertwined as they tell the tale of recent working class history.

Shows a photograph of a banner hanging on a brick wall above some low cushioned benches. It features a picture of a ship under the legend Empire Windrush.

Jeremy Deller. Banner from Jeremy Deller's Five Memorials, made by Ed Hall. Photo: Thierry Bal. Courtesy the artist.

On the facing wall, five small photographs show pieces of public art created or commissioned by Deller as tributes to moments or people now gone.

From a bench in Belgravia for Brian Epstein to a banner for the Empire Windrush at Tilbury ferry terminal and plaque for a striking miner killed at Ferrybridge Power Station in 1984, they are honourably conceived and subtly carried out.

The effect isn’t overpowering, but the artist’s mission to record and reflect on social and cultural history comes shining through. In much the same way A Social Parade, a film-piece recorded by children and teenagers from a San Sebastian video club, is a tribute to the spirit of the ordinary person.

Members of low-profile societies, clubs and organisations in the Spanish town were invited to join a parade through its streets, with the video club interviewing them and recording their progress.

Shows a photograoh of a flat screen hung on a white gallery wall. On the screen there is a scene from a street parade and the words We'll learn to respect other groups and enjoy diversity.

Jeremy Deller. A Social Parade 2004. Courtesy the artist, Art Concept, Paris, The Modern Institute, Glasgow and GBE Modern, New York. Photo: © 24 Hour Museum.

But it is for another film piece that Deller received his nomination. Memory Bucket was produced during a residency in San Antonio, Texas and sees the artist turn his attentions on the recent history of the state.

He focuses on the politically-loaded locations of Waco and George Bush’s hometown of Crawford, merging archive shots with personal testimonies from the likes of siege survivor and the owner of the President’s local diner.

The sometimes moving, sometimes humorous, scenes, flow into footage of a shop where a rack of rifles sits behind a row of pastry cutters, an anti-Bush/anti war demo, Willie Nelson performing and a re-telling of the story of the Alamo.

Deller offers charged moments, controversy, strongly-held beliefs and tender reminiscence, encapsulated in the mythology of Texas. But the piece leaves us with a lingering shot of three million bats emerging from a cave as the sun goes down.

Shows a photograph of bats emerging from a cave. They are silhouetted against a vivid and darkening blue sky.

Jeremy Deller. Bats emerging from a cave 2003. Production photograph from Memory Bucket. Courtesy the artist.

The work was clearly a vast undertaking and in bringing together events of seemingly great social and political consequence with an immense movement of nature he suggests the transience of human action and ultimately, memory.

However, with his Turner Prize offering, Deller doesn’t seem to be trying to dazzle us with his intellect, make us gasp at his ability or stand back in shock. He just wants us to think.

At the centre of the room there’s a large desk, surrounded by chairs and carrying a number of books. They range from the Miners Strike in pictures, a tome on bats, Acid House and excerpts from Brian Epstein’s notebook to the much-talked about Hutton report into the death of Dr David Kelly.

The table is like a ‘go further’ workstation, designed to heighten and continue the learning curve that Deller sets us off on.

It’s a learning curve I’d happily pursue in his company and with this in mind, it seems that Deller’s Turner Prize offering is all about using art to educate.

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