Since 1938, The British Council has commissioned artists to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale, celebrating the best of British art. Deller is the 19th artist to be selected for a solo presentation at the British pavilion in the 2013 Biennale, which will run from June to November. Following slightly apprehensively, Deller will walk in the footsteps of some of the biggest names in British art, such as Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud, Bridget Riley, Anthony Caro, Gilbert and George, and most recently Mike Nelson in 2011. In addition to the main British pavilion, additional exhibitions will also be presented by Wales and Scotland. Wales will be represented by Bedwyr Williams, whose work encompasses sculpture and absurd performances verging on stand-up comedy. Scotland, in its 10th independent presentation at the biennale, will present three artists based in Glasgow: watercolour painter Hayley Tompkins, and film-makers Corin Sworn and Duncan Campbell.
Jeremy Deller is a collaborative artist known for his provocative works about social history and recent events, which encourage viewers to look at one kind of culture through the lens of another. The much-anticipated solo exhibition at the British Pavilion will follow on from two of his key projects last year, which has been revealed as a personal museum of British culture. To get an idea of what the exhibition may encompass, we should take a look into his project: Joy In People (2012) – Deller’s mid-career retrospective which opened at the Hayward Gallery and is currently touring the US.
Joy In People is an exhibition that features an extensive collection of Deller’s major installations, consisting of photographs, videos, posters, banners, performances and sound works. One highlight of this oeuvre is Open Bedroom (1993), a life-size reconstruction of his first exhibition staged in his parents’ house, which Deller put on while they were away on vacation. Joy in People also includes Valerie’s Snack Bar, a functioning replica of a Manchester café, which was originally created as a float for a parade Deller orchestrated in 2009. This replica is complemented by large-scale parade banners, including one designed by David Hockney, and a video of the procession.
Deller is also well known for his open-ended projects. These works explore mixtures of folk and vernacular culture – or alternative ways of life – collaborating with groups as diverse as former miners, bat behavioural experts, Depeche Mode fans and numerous musicians. These works aim to help to rewrite the rules of contemporary art in many respects. One of these projects, The History of the World, consists of a series of flow diagrams that map ‘a thought process in action’ which connects traditional Brass Bands with Acid House music. The work shows that the two musical forms actually have a lot in common; they are both types of British folk music with strong northern roots, and have at times been associated with civil disorder. Another work, Memory Bucket, is a documentary exploring Crawford –the Texas hometown of former US president G.W Bush – and the Branch Davidian siege in nearby Waco, winning Deller the Turner Prize in 2004.
For his exhibition at the British pavilion, looking at his older work, it will certainly be controversial, relating to current affairs, playful, entertaining, interactive, and, from observing his extensive archive, include a thought-provoking twist. It has been described by the curator as ‘wistfully aggressive’ and is titled ‘English Magic’. It is a clever collective mix of works full of anger and satire, yet also acts as a celebration of english culture. Some of these objects include Neolithic hand axes to William Morris fabrics, who Deller admires. Without revealing too much, there are drawings by inmates of HMPs Shotts, Everthorpe and Parc occupying a room that examines the Iraq war and a mural of Roman Abramovich’s yacht being cast into the waves. This exciting exhibition perfectly illustrates the artist’s love-hate relationship with Britain.
British Pavilion Team
Artist: Jeremy Deller
Curator: Emma Gifford-Mead
Commissioner: Andrea Rose
Venue: Giardini di Castello 30122
About The Culture Trip’s Venice Biennale Project
The 55th International Art Exhibition of the Venice Biennale will take place from 1 June – 24 November. The Culture Trip’s Venice Biennale Series is an article series leading up to the start of the exhibition. With 88 countries participating in this year’s Biennale — 10 of them for the first time — and 150 artists from 37 countries, our coverage over the next couple of months will highlight a selection of the National Pavilions that will be participating in the 2013 edition of the Venice Biennale. Follow the Biennale page on our site or The Culture Trip’s Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest pages for our daily Biennale articles and updates.
By Eleanor Cunningham