Jeremy Deller (born 1966) is an English conceptual, video and installation artist. He won the Turner Prize in 2004. Deller is known for his Battle of Orgreave (2001), a re-enactment of the actual Battle of Orgreave which occurred during the UK miners’ strike in 1984. From 2007–2011, Deller served as a Trustee of the Tate Gallery.
Recently I went to see his Hayward touring exhibition, All that is solid melts into air. Throughout his curated exhibition, Deller takes a personal look at the impact of the Industrial Revolution on British popular culture, and its persisting influence on our lives today. A fascinating collection of working class culture, tokens, expressions, maps, ideas, records, films, juke boxes and dreams constitute not only a spotlighting but a celebration of working class culture in the UK.
Throughout the exhibition Dellar personifies working class culture, both dreary and oppressive, and proud and pragmatic. I was particularly taken by his documentary on Adrian Street, a flamboyant international wrestler from Wales, symbolically refusing the limitations enforced upon him by his father.
Deller is an artist who repeatedly focuses on high and low culture in the UK, and shines the torch into the twisted, frayed and stalwart world of the working class. I read in a book of his about the Manchester Procession that he produced, by and interviewee that austerity and adversity often gives birth to popular expressions of contemporary life through popular music and comedy.
Occupying the world of High art, as a darling of the art world, Turner Prize Winner and ex trustee of the Tate, I find it fascinating that Dellar works repeatedly with the subject matter of low culture, working culture and it’s importance to social identity today. Working identity is a valued and valuable culture, being eroded as working class skills and pride falls into the generic middle spread of the ever expanding service sector.
Dellar’s realism, and pragmaticism also catch my eye. He recognises collaboration as shambolic and messy, but doesn’t try to remove that aspect from his work, he repeatedly works on collective social ceremonies and events; such as Manchester’s procession and the battle of Orgreave.
Working class culture; spaces, rituals, language, expression, gesture and attitude fascinate me and is a space more familiar and comfortable to me than the elitist high ceilings of educational institutions and over polished meeting rooms. People as people, people with their most immediate familial, financial and social realities. After all these years of refining my mind, I still find most comfort looking at the world with my social realism goggles on; apart from one eyeglass is smeared with ever inviting never never land glitter.