Sunday, Dec 04, 2022

Matter of Art

Turner Prize-winning artist Jeremy Deller on not ‘studying’ art and folk traditions in India and Britain.

turner Prize winner, turner Prize, artist, artistJeremy Deller, IIC, Literary Activism, Literary Activism, talk Jeremy Deller (Praveen Khanna)

BRITISH ARTIST Jeremy Deller doesn’t mince words. Rather, the 49-year-old finds incorruptible and candid ways to use them, especially when it comes to making art. “I am interested in broadening the definition of art in a small way. That’s quite a big thing to say; it’s quite a boast… Whether I succeed is another matter, but this is what I am interested in,” says the Turner prize- winner as he settles down at India International Centre (IIC). Deller was in Delhi for the second symposium in the “Literary Activism” series organised by the UEA Centre for the Creative and the Critical at Presidency University, and the IIC. The symposium’s focus on “c” — where the creative practitioner, or one of any kind, doesn’t have to be identified with one genre or activity — is right up Deller’s alley. “I didn’t go to an art college and didn’t study art. I picked up in a different way and became an artist in so many different ways. I became a professional without realising it really,” says Deller, whose session was about his journey and also about the people he meets and works with, who are not necessarily professionals.

Known for his conceptual, visual and installation works, Deller’s greatest engagement has been the one which involves collaborators. And in his case, there are many. In 2001, Deller roped in almost 1,000 people in a public re-enactment of a violent confrontation from the 1984 miner’s strike for his work The Battle of Orgreave. In 2009, his work titled Procession, saw diverse groups of people drawn from 10 boroughs of Manchester for a Mancunian parade. “A lot of my work is about working with the public. I have a broad definition of art. Also, I’m not a snob. I like people who make things in a different way, where there is no hierarchy. I like things made by enthusiasts as opposed to professionals,” he says.

Working with the similar notion, “Folk Archive”, a project that comprised art produced by prisoners to community groups, carnival troupes and pop fans, created with longtime collaborator Alan Kane, found its way out of the cobwebbed folk history of Britain. “I used this as a prime example at the symposium too. I spoke about the people who make things for the love of it, rather than for making money. They do it because they have to,” he says about the work, which had travelled to Delhi last year. His observations on “people’s art” found home here as well. “It’s difficult not to see the folk culture here in India; it is visible everywhere, on the streets, the markets. It’s very different in Britain. It’s almost invisible in Britain, because we industrialised so quickly in the mid-19th century. Folk production disappeared and never came back,” he says.

Deller, who is also an Albert Medal awardee, is currently working on four projects. While one is a children’s playground in Germany, which is “hopefully going to be a giant animal construction that children can use”, the other is a film made in Jamaica with a dancer. “Other bigger projects are a secret. I rely on the surprise element,” he says.

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First published on: 11-01-2016 at 12:06:19 am
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