Arguably one of Britain's most adored artists, the affable everyman Jeremy Deller opened his first survey show at the Hayward Gallery last week. Recipient of the Turner Prize in 2004, he achieved acclaim for his often collaborative and participatory works that hinged on political and social histories and narratives including 'The Battle of Orgreave' in which he restaged the miner's strike of 1984-5 in South Yorkshire. With an unrivalled eye for spotting folk heroes, the strange and the wonderful alike, Deller presents en masse a life's work ranging from a reconstruction of his show Open Bedroom c.1988-c.1994 through to Valerie's snack bar where you can purchase sustenance from a lovely lass.
I have a song I am obsessed with that I play when I leave the house, not exactly obscure: 'In my Time of Dying' by Led Zepellin
Bringing to light dialogues within recent events, the live presence of a person who had first hand experience of Iraq accompanies the 2009 piece 'It Is What It Is', a crumpled car wreck destroyed by a bomb in a Baghdad marketplace on March 5 2007 and subsequently toured the US with Deller, a US veteran and an Iraqi citizen before arriving in the Imperial War Museum. Today the artist also releases a new collaboration with Chuck, a busker whom he met on the Hayward's very own Southbank and decided to make a record with. The vinyl revolves around one of the core themes of his oeuvre - the cover version. Here's what the man of the hour had to say about it all...
Dazed Digital: Your work often invites or necessitates collaboration. From 'ex-miner turner professional glam rock wrestler' Adrian Street to Depeche Mode fans, what's so good about people?
Jeremy Deller: We will always be interested in ourselves more than anything else, we are fascinated with other humans and I am no exception.
DD: Could you introduce us to your term 'social surrealism'?
Jeremy Deller: It's just simply the strangeness of the everyday.
DD: Have any narratives or themes that you didn't realise were present emerged by bringing together all the works?
Jeremy Deller: I can’t identify any but in a way that is up to someone else to point out.
DD: Are there any pieces in the show you hadn't thought about for a while and were surprised by?
Jeremy Deller: The early work in the bedroom, it's not as bad as I had thought!
DD: Unusually for an artist catalog, your Mum has written an essay, 'My Unconventional Son'. What made you invite your Mum to contribute? Was it emotional to read?
Jeremy Deller: I have yet to read it, so maybe it might be, I just thought it would be interesting for her to have a say in the matter.
DD: What other titles did you consider for the show?
Jeremy Deller: Animal, Vegetable, Pop Music, Local Artist...
DD: You've got a record out with Vinyl Factory on the same day that 'Joy in People' opens. How did you meet Chuck, your collaborator on the album?
Jeremy Deller: He is the record! He plays outside so I suppose you would call him a busker, I met him when he was playing on the Southbank.
DD: What's on the record?
Jeremy Deller: Folsom Prison Blues / Island in The Sun.
DD: What is it about cover versions that interest you so much? When did you first start liking them?
Jeremy Deller: I’ve always liked them, they can tell us things about the social and cultural change and assimilation.
DD: 'Acid Brass' fused Acid House and Brass Bands in 1997, how has this been formative in your thinking for following collaborations? And how have these later works developed your original project?
Jeremy Deller: It showed me that it was not difficult to work with the public or musicians if you have the right project.
DD: Who are you listening to at the moment to get you through your super busy week?
Jeremy Deller: I have a song I am obsessed with that I play when I leave the house, not exactly obscure: 'In my Time of Dying' by Led Zepellin.
DD: What's next for Jeremy Deller?
Jeremy Deller: I'm curating a retrospective of the work of Bruce Lacy at Camden Arts Centre. He’s an 85 year old artist who deserves a big show. I’m also making a film about him.