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jeremy deller interview
jeremy deller interview

watch jeremy deller's guided tour of the folk archive:

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Artists Jeremy Deller and Alan Kane redefine folk art.

Artists Alan Kane and Jeremy Deller took seven years to create the Folk Archive. The show was conceived out of love for popular art and abhorrence for the meaninglessness of the Millennium Dome. The last retrospective of British folk art took place at the Whitechapel in 1951, so it was about time somebody attacked the subject. Yet Deller, who won the Turner Prize last year, and Kane’s approach is surprising. There is very little folk art in the traditional sense of handmade DIY “outsider art”.

Deller and Kane capture the strangeness of contemporary life. Among the 250 works are the detritus of political protests, car rallies, crop circles, clowns and office life. There are photos and footage of strange festivals and competitions where life becomes performance art, including the World Gurning Championships, and a festival of insults and horse skulls in South Wales, called Mari Lwyd.

Jeremy Deller and Ambulance Pincushion.

The work ranges from an evil scarecrow that resembles Michael Jackson, complete with gloves, to a penis made of burrs. Sometimes the political element is obvious, as in Ed Hall’s colour-filled banners from protest marches. At other times the rebellion and dissent is not so clear-cut, but there is a sense of something anarchic in all the work. The choices may be personal to the artists but their resonance is universal.

The Folk Archive raises absorbing questions about British-ness. How do the strange events and visual ephemera of modern life create an image of a country’s psyche? What are the stories floating behind the glimpses of protest, anger, chaos and fun? Most importantly, how do these objects and images explain the motivation behind creativity? In fact, what makes this collection of photographs, videos and weird stuff so interesting is wondering why they exist at all.

Francesca Gavin 13 May 05
Folk Archive: Contemporary Popular Art From The UK is at the Barbican, London, until 24 July 05. It then tours the UK. See for details.
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  Trad events as art
4 comments | last comment Jul 18, 2005

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