Jeremy Deller
Father and Son, 2021, Saint Saviour’s Church of Exiles, Collingwood, Melbourne/AU.

Jeremy Deller, Father and Son, November 6th, 2021, time-based sculptural installation, wax, wood, wick, flame, life-size, commissioned by ACCA, Saint Saviour’s Church of Exiles, Collingwood, Melbourne/AU.

Father and Son is a time-based installation by Jeremy Deller, commissioned by the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA). On November 6, 2021, a public vigil staged the 12-hour burning of the waxwork. The event was filmed and broadcast in real-time on the ACCA website. A miniature version of the candle sculpture was also on sale.

Father and Son illustrates the social dimension of Jeremy Deller’s artistic approach. The work is presented as an archetypal representation of the father figure accompanied by his male offspring. Yet the two men bear an uncanny resemblance to Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch, the heads of a long line of Australian media magnates. The artist tackles the question of inheritance and filiation and invites us to reflect on power dynamics through a generational and institutional prism.

The Bible is the main reference for the British artist, who specifically mentions verse 5:19 of the Gospel according to Saint John: “What the Father does, the Son does likewise”. The choice of venue – a desacralized church in Melbourne – underlines the subversive nature of Jeremy Deller’s thinking, for whom museums and churches are singular, interchangeable spaces where the boundaries between sacred and profane are blurred. A setting that inevitably refers to the patriarchal dynamics at work not only in the Christian Church but also in other spheres of our society: politics, the media, the workplace… 

The sculptural design of Father and Son reveals the influence of Spanish Baroque sculpture. A heritage that he adapts to ancient and contemporary codes, from the family portrait to the corporate picture, often used as a means of legitimization in the context of an entrepreneurial dynasty. This work, which burns and self-destructs, can be seen as a kind of politically engaged vanitas or memento mori.