Jeremy Deller

One bewildered woman strolled past the work and knocked on the office door, asking where the exhibition was

Feature by Jasper Hamill | 13 Oct 2006
According to a BBC survey, half of a survey group of 256 contemporary artists believe that the Turner Prize gave contemporary art a bad name. Rather than its intended function of rewarding and illuminating creative talent, the prize has become a byword for sensationalism, seemingly more interested in showbiz than serious art.

Jeremy Deller, who, in his own words, is not a "technically capable person" is the sort of artist who angers conservatives. He does not make work unilaterally, instead relying on extensive collaboration, refuses to be constrained to a traditional medium, insists upon work that is impossible to sell and shuns the glamour of the London art scene.

Working in a manner more akin with a movie producer, he has organized
a reconstruction of the Battle of Orgreave, a particularly brutal incident during the Miners' Strike, staged a concert where Acid House tunes were played by a brass band and made several films, the best of which is 'Memory Bucket' for which he visited George Bush's hometown. Bravely, or stupidly, the removal of the work from a gallery setting, which neatly sidesteps any chance of its commodification, is a bit of a headache for traditionalists or aggressive critics who decry his work as vapid, meaningless or even twee.

Deller is represented by the Modern Institute, which has had a pretty good run of it, with one of its stable also winning the prize last year. The Turner Prize is ubiquitous, covered in everything from the Mail to Artforum, with a howling cacophony or praise, shock or bewilderment billowing from every publication around the time of the announcement. So I excepted hordes of Mail readers, hoping to anger themselves before storming off to gawp at a Cézanne at the Kelvingrove, or at least an art student or two keen to suss out if they too could ever possibly win the forty grand prize. But, the space was completely empty. One bewildered woman walked in to have a look, strolled past the work and knocked on the office door, asking where the exhibition was. It's a completely understandable reaction.

Back in the gallery space, any exhibition of Deller's work will be necessarily stripped of its Wagnerian impact. No video could ever convey a brass band performing an Acid House recital, neither could a folder of reviews help the visitors' understanding of Deller's previous work.

The only non-video work in the room was a pile of brown posters with 'What Would Neil Young Do?' written on them. Other than that, one telly was showing the bouncing DVD symbol screensaver and the other showed 'Edited Rushes'. Compiled from three years of footage, the film has no unifying structure, no immediate narrative and, ostensibly, seems more about the amount of free time Deller has to be a flaneur than anything else. He has shot footage of a fox hunting protest, another civilized looking protest, pensioners dancing in a nasty looking shopping mall and a meeting chaired by Ken Livingstone. I assume the intention is to make a less crude Little Britain, a portrait of all the strange passions that drive people around this island. But, without any clear point being made, it all seems a bit
pointless, more like the home videos of a camcorder enthusiast than the work of an artist.

Of course, that is his entire point: he means to create a work that is shorn from its authorial roots and not immediately recognizable as 'A Deller'. Yet by removing narrative, structure and meaning, he succeeds only in producing a sterile slide show of mostly banal, occasionally interesting, imagery.
The Modern Institute, Glasgow until October 28. Free.