Jeremy Deller's Joy in People

Along with Francis Alÿs, I really enjoy the work of Jeremy Deller as socially engaged live art practice, that is both critically and aesthetically strong as well as socially resonant. Jeremy Deller's Joy in People is his first retrospective, which reads more like staging an archive than curatorially designing an exhibition. As a comparison I am thinking of Alÿs' A Story of Deception at the Tate Modern, which had a very museum quality on it's exhibition design. Maybe it's that my partner has moved into curatorial practice that I now not only read the content of the work but also the mode of display. Or is that there is something lacking in the overall body of work itself?

But for now I'm more interested in highlighting some of the work. Though I was not totally compelled by the the works, they exhibition did serve to create a journey through time of the artist's past and process. The viewer was made to feel to be in on an intimate encounter with the work immediately as you walk in to a recreation of his bedroom in his parent's home that he turned into an exhibition and subsequently entirely into an artwork. Das unheimlich to the umpteenth degree, the home made public, the private on display, the recreation false yet accommodating and intimate.

The best room for me was the video projection of a lecture Deller gave speaking about his work. It was there that the real heart and soul of his practice seemed present. Most of those works didn't make it into the exhibition, and by comparison I did feel slightly disappointed by the rest of the show, but this was partially due to my expectations, and struggle to critique modes of re-presentation of socially engaged practice.

If we are to consider process and product as the entire source of aesthetic critique, how do we display process without it being a serialised archive? How can process be presented on an equal aesthetic basis to product? This is a question I think I need to discuss with curators and exhibition designers as well are artists who work in applied live art settings.

Of course his seminal work Battle of Orgreave is present, which is worth the mention. Performance wise there were two sets of live actions present which I very much appreciated. One was a solitary performer sat reading on a black chez lounge with a large black wall behing them where the words Melancholia where written in black bubble lettering. It was a nod to his emo roots in some ways, slightly too cute for me to like as a work. The other performance / live action, was a float from a parade he did, that was a recreation of a cafe, complete with free tea and lovely servers. Again, entertaining but slightly flat. There is more to that narrative but I'm going to write a new blog entry on parade as performance soon and will include more background there.

Unfortunately I have recently found out that Deller tends to be actually terribly disengage socially and politically, having mostly fallen into a the social system as artistic medium without much real passion for the subject. Rather heart breaking to say the least, but I'll sway to my sources opinion.

Finally I'll mention the photo I used for this post. There were presses available for embossing your programme or any other piece of paper: 'A group of people standing outside a closed day centre.' Hell is other people's money 'A range rover, crushed, and made into a bench'. We decided to markedly improve on Deller's work by embossing Hell is Other People's Money on to a tenner, right next to the Queen's face and on to a euro bill. Later that day we needed some groceries and off went the tenner to the shop. When the turkish cashier took the money he actually noticed the embossing and looked at quizzically - 'Oh yeah that, it was part of an art project, but its still real money' responded my partner. He happily took the tenner gave her change and essentially placed a part of the Deller exhibition into the social stream to swim freely along the rivers of capital exchange. Now this is what socially engaged is all about, should someone tell Deller about it?

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