The aesthetic of Jeremy Deller (London, 1966) draws on varied cultures and periods, fosters freedom of expression as a vehicle for meaning and alternative values, and activates a transversal dialog that short circuits past and present by playing with social stereotypes. His work focuses on sub-cultures, the folklore of people in general and everything human, developing an almost lysergic narrative suspended between actuality and fiction, real and imaginary.
The artist is particularly interested in the mechanisms on which contemporary societies are structured and the disparate experiences and relationships of individuals who are part of it, which is the reason why he voraciously collects, archives, photographs and documents slices of everyday life.
In some of his most representative works Deller explores the political and cultural heritage of his country, Britain, as in English Magic (2013), a project the artist created to represent the UK at the 55th Venice Biennale. A complex and layered installation, it reflected the thematic motifs of his poetic, presenting a merciless view of British society, its myths and rituals, its political and cultural history, in a growing blurring of different registers: high culture and low, referents borrowed from art history and allusions to pop culture, compounded together to create a work that is both playful and provocative, a narrative committed to revealing the repressions in our systems of coexistence and expression.
As in The Battle of Orgreave, a project commissioned by Artangel in 2001, which presents a massive re-enactment of the violent protests of the miners against the police at the time of the reforms passed by Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government (1984-85).
Despite his unconventional and controversial approach, the artist has become an icon of English art and won the prestigious Turner Prize in 2004 with the film Memory Bucket, devoted to the human, social and cultural scenarios of the great American provinces.
His flair for historical-sociological investigation often involves other people as part of the creative process. In this respect his work has the various points of contact with music. Acid Brass (1997) presents an unlikely fusion between Manchester Acid House music with the sound of a traditional British brass band; or again the work presented at the Fourth Berlin Biennale (Kiezmerr Chidesch spielen ihre Komposition fur die 4 Berlin Biennale, 2006), in which the artist invited a band called the Kiezmerr Chidesch, almost entirely made up of immigrant farmers from the former Soviet Union, to play, share and transmit their music, filled with melancholy, in the Auguststraße, now a gentrified street in what used to be East Berlin.
Originally presented at the Madre in the exhibition People. Volti, corpi e segni contemporanei dalla collezione di Ernesto Esposito in 2006, I love melancholy is an installation consisting of a stenciled inscription standing out against a wall painted black. Its reassuring lettering and glossy appearance (the writing, with these same features, was designed for a T-shirt from the French fashion house agnès b.), deliberately clash with the melancholy significance of the statement, which serves as an ironic contemporary counterpoint to Albrecht Dürer’s celebrated engraving Melancolia I (1514). This work becomes, in the final analysis, the clear expression of a state of mind common to the disquiet of our age, especially (but not only) among young people, literally embodied by a romantically bored female punk reading and listening to music next to the installation and enlivening it. This performative element that completes the work will be presented to a timetable available at the museum. Set in a meta-temporal dialogue with the complex experience of the Living Theatre, documented in the same room, Deller’s installation heightens and sets in perspective the per-formative potential of the museum’s collection, embodying its reflexive, active and participatory status, and communicating its experience and the idea of a living collection.