Jeremy Deller defines himself as an “instigator of social interventions”: his works are often characterized by audience participation, his sculptures are social experiences in which performances, videos, and installations become places of exchange and aggregation. This was also the starting point for Sacrilege, originally created for the Glasgow International Festival of Visual Art, and later displayed in London on the occasion of the 2012 Olympics. With funding from Arts Council England Sacrilege travelled to different locations in the UK before being shown in London as part of CREATE and the London 2012 festival.
With the sense of humour that characterizes many of his projects, Deller transforms the Stonehenge monument into a giant inflatable toy for children, reproducing it in plastic and turning it into a funfair attraction 35 meters in diameter; the public is thus called upon to interact with the installation, to climb onto it, and to jump and play within it.
The effect is at once celebratory and sacrilegious, as the title, chosen by the artist in order to deflate any possible criticism, would suggest. With its unabashedly playful approach, Sacrilege is an invitation to reappraise one’s history and one’s own national identity, but it also offers a sarcastic comment on how these themes are often trivialized and exploited by nationalist and populist political agendas – a subject that is unfortunately of our moment.
“Sacrilege is playful and cheeky. The title is a way is to ward off any criticism—some will think that it is just that, a sacrilege, so why not call it that? One intended outcome is laughter, perhaps a few tears, and certainly enjoyment, though not necessarily in that order. For me at least it is also a nod to what I would call the “freak out” tendency in UK culture: Hawkwind, Bruce Lacey, and Ken Russell being its best exponents.” Jeremy Deller, in Art Forum, April 20, 2012
Jeremy Deller was born in 1966 and lives and works in London.
Much of Deller’s work is collaborative; it has a strong political aspect, in the subjects dealt with and also the devaluation of artistic ego through the involvement of other people in the creative process. The great strength of Jeremy Deller’s artworks is that they directly raise the question of the sacredness and untouchability of spaces, social codes and emblems of power and even more so of political, economic and religious powers. Whether it’s stepping on Stonehenge’s sacred ground, jumping on it or highlighting popular culture, evoking music fans or the British, it’s all about mass creative power. Rather than fearing or suffering the powers in place, it results in a confrontation between history, culture and heritage. The work of Jeremy Deller is to be experienced by all and for all, he invites us to create a participatory work where everyone has a role to play. His artworks, trans-historical and partisan of free expression as a vector of values and meaning, initiate a dialogue between cultures, people, the past, the present and what could be the future. In a society that claims to open up access to culture and continues to provide a model to follow on what is culturally and intellectually acceptable from what is not, Deller gets away and plays with these societal stereotypes by focusing on subcultures, folklore, people.
He won the Turner Prize in 2004, and in 2010 was awarded the Albert Medal of the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures & Commerce (RSA). His work is present, among others, in the following institutions: FNAC, Paris; FRAC Nord-Pas-De-Calais; FRAC Pays de la Loire; FRAC Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, Musée des Arts Contemporains, Grand-Hornu; Tate Modern, London; Victoria & Albert Museum, London. Exhibitions include : Wir haben die Schnauze voll, Bonner Kunstverein, Bonn/DE (2020); Everybody In The Place, The Modern Institute, Glasgow/UK (2019); English Magic, British Pavilion, 55th Venice Biennale/IT (2013); Sacrilege, Esplanade des Invalides, Projet Hors les Murs, FIAC Paris/FR (2012); Joy In People, Hayward Gallery, London/UK (2012); D’une révolution à l’autre, Carte Blanche à Jeremy Deller, Palais de Tokyo, Paris/FR (2008).