Saturday, November 8, 2008

saturday supplement: jeremy deller interview on the occasion of "d'une révolution a l'autre"

jeremy deller her ne kadar kendisi siradan bir sergi dese de palais de tokyo gibi bir yere "bir devrimden bir baskasina" gibi bir sergi yerlestirerek kurumsal sanatsal beyaz kup estetigine meydan okuyan bir tavir koyuyor. geleneksel dedigine, gunluk ve gorunmeyene bir kere daha donup bakmamiza sebep oluyor.
sergi ingiltere'deki geleneksel halk performanslarindan, hapishanede cizilen resimlere, yine ingiltere'deki alternatif halk hareketlerinin flamalarindan, fransiz pop-rocki icin pek kiymetli olan golf druot arsivinden, sovyetlerde elektronik muzik yapma denemelerine, ziggy stardust endustri devrimi baglantisindan, "bilinmedik" bir sanatcinin birtakim gunluk utopya yaratma eylemlerine ziplayarak kafa aciyor. fotograflari yakinda burada...

In 1996, Jeremy Deller was part of the group exhibition Life/Live at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. His participation was rather quiet : a few posters were hung in the cafeteria but also outside the museum on the notice board that now belongs to the Palais de Tokyo. This spot was a lucky one. Twelve years later, the Palais is giving him a “carte blanche” for an exhibition. In the meantime, Deller won the prestigious Turner Prize in 2004 and created with Alan Kane, the Folk Archive, a detailed and surprising documentation of contemporary British popular practices.

You were given a carte blanche for your coming exhibition at the Palais de Tokyo. How did it happen ? Were you entirely free?
I was approached by the director of the Palais de Tokyo a few years back but I didn’t really think about it seriously until last year. You do have artistic freedom more or less but I think the major curtailment on the artist is the budget.

In 1996, Hans Ulrich Obrist invited you to exhibit just in front of the Palais de Tokyo at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. The small booklet of the show was made of photographs and mysterious quotations in French like “L’oreille est le chemin du cœur”. What was it about?
Those were quotes by philosophers about music, religion with images from pop music and pop culture. In the cafeteria, I displayed posters advertising forthcoming shows that existed in my mind. It had the look of a student notice board, it was messy basically. This project was part of the exhibition Life/Live about artist-run spaces in the UK. Now that I think about it, I also displayed alternative posters outside of the museum on the notice board right in front of the Palais de Tokyo.

At the Palais de Tokyo you’re going to show the Folk Archive which is a collection of objects and photographs from the British folk culture. Can such an archive travel and be understood in another country such as France?
Yes of course it can be appreciated. It’s like saying ‘can Delacroix be understood by the English?’ Because something is very English/French whatever doesn’t mean it does not translate, this is a different language to the written word. The Folk Archive already travelled to Serbia and Switzerland and people enjoyed it and found it very entertaining. There is a universal element to it, you don’t need a translation. And some things in the archive are unusual for English people as well.

Why did you decide to show the Folk Archive in Paris?
Well, for practical reasons it is a big ready made exhibition that could at least begin to fill the huge space that is the Palais de Tokyo, so it seemed natural to do. It is also interesting to show a very British thing outside of the Motherland as it were.

Will this Folk Archive be different from the one you exhibited in 2005 at the Barbican in London?
The display will be the same, the order might change a little. The version for Paris is an expanded version, there will be six shows in total. Ed Hall, a banner maker, is getting his own retrospective of banners made in the last twenty five-years. Most banners are for trade unions and pressure groups and in some respects tell a story about social history of the last twenty years. There will be an exhibition on the French rock scene and the story of Golf-Drouot, a Parisian night club from the early sixties late fifties, another one about the industrial revolution in Britain and its relationship to pop music and also a show about early electronic music in Russia.

The Folk Archive is often described as objects made by amateurs, not by artists. Does the status of these objects matter to you?
I’m not interested in getting into authorship, amateur, folk, etc arguments. That’s probably because I didn’t go to any art school, for me the rules for being an artist did not exist. I think there is a massive snobbery about art and who is and who isn’t an artist. For example, State Britain by Mark Wallinger was restaged as an artwork but the critics loved it. But if for example they had the original object in Tate, a lot of those critics wouln’t have liked it. That’s the kind of snobbery you’re against when you’re showing the Folk Archive and you’re actually showing the original thing, you’re not showing an artist’s interpretation of it.

Do you think that’s the reason why the Folk Archive got really bad critics in the UK?
Absolutely so, they could not believe they had to review a show of artworks by people they didn’t know and who were anonymous. They lost some kind of authority and in a way it threatened themselves. One reviewer was so angry that she said “By showing this work in London in a gallery you are depriving real artists for space to show their work”. We couldn’t think she was being serious but she was. There is a real moment where you think, oh shit, that’s what the art world is really about…

Did some critics think you were actually making fun of the people shown in the Folk Archive ?
You always get that ! That’s the first thing they say, that we are exploiting those people and that they don’t realize what’s happening when they have their work shown. But the people you see in the archive know their work is funny. Most critics think those people are not as intelligent as everyone else because they’re not artists or in the artworld or in London. In the exhibition, there will be one show about the industrial revolution in Britain and in some way, it’s about loosing contact with the countryside. There is a suspicion of things made in the countryside.

Any favorite objects or pictures from the archive?
The mechanical elephant was a moment of revelation when we both saw it, also we got to know the person that made it. The sick notes too I like, an unexpected find for the show. But on the whole, the things we remember most and we liked most is when we met the people who made things and spent time with them, that was the biggest bonus.

Were you already politically engaged during your studies in the eighties?
Not particularily, the college was not political and the whole atmosphere was a bit depressing in the UK, there was no end in sight. Politically, the eighties were really tough in America and in Britain. We were basically under some kind of weird dictatorship by accident. We were led by a person who was very unsympathetic and who disliked a lot of people in the country and made it clear. The eighties were just grim. There was massive unemployment, the music scene was very bad, popular music after 1985 was awful. It was just not very glamourous.

Then you met Andy Warhol in 1986…
That was my equivalent of three years in art college compressed into three weeks. I was at the Factory and I just absorbed what he could achieve as an artist. It was amazing, this man just did what he wanted. Forty years ago, I probably could never have become an artist but now I can and that’s because people like Andy Warhol allowed it. He just showed what being a 21st century artist meant.

Parades are a recurring motif in your work. You seem to enjoy public events.
I’m just drawn to public displays of any kind, parades are very appealing because of the music and also they hold a mirror up to daily reality. It’s not unusal. I think everyone enjoy public events, we’re all curious people. It’s part of human nature to be curious and interested in something happening in the streets or in the public sphere in general, it’s part of our social makeup.

Parades and exhibitions are both public events. Do they have something in common for you?
Not really, exhibitions are only semi public in my opinion. For instance, the entrance is not free. And then on the other hand, art exhibitions are now treated like spectacular events, people expect that from art exhibitions. This exhibition in Paris is definitively not spectacular, it is a very traditionnal exhibition with just objects and images.

Most of your projects involve people from different background such as fans of the Manic Street Preachers and more recently miners for your film The Battle of Orgreave.How do you connect with such a wide range of people?
I just try to get on with them and to be honest, that makes me sound horrible! Its not unusual it’s something a lot of people have to do on a daily basis, maybe I should have been a priest !

Jeremy Deller, D’une révolution à l’autre, exhibition at the Palais de Tokyo, Paris, 26 September 2008 - 4 January 2009.

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