Art is Magic
from 10 June to 17 September 2023
Frac Bretagne, La Criée centre d'art contemporain, Musée des beaux-arts, Rennes
Art is Magic is the first French retrospective of the celebrated English artist Jeremy Deller (born in London in 1966), winner of the prestigious 2004 Turner Prize and Britain’s representative at the Venice Biennale in 2013.
Deller’s work deals in popular culture and counter-cultures, with his artistic inquiries centring not just on social issues and history but also on music. Deller’s oeuvre is tinged with acerbic humour and conscious socio-political discourse, making a connection between vernacular or mass culture and the world of work. The artist’s quest has led him to explore the social history of his country and further afield through subjects as diverse as the social unrest of the Thatcher era, the pop group Depeche Mode, the world of wrestling, the spawning ground of Brexit… and even acid house and the rave movement. In each instance, Deller has constantly endeavoured to include other participants in the creative process. The Art is Magic exhibition provides a broad overview of Deller’s work from the 1990s to the present day, focusing on 15 major projects and key works that have marked his career. In addition, the event marks the publication of the first retrospective of the artist’s work in French.
One retrospective, three worlds:
The exhibition at the Rennes Museum of Art gives an overview of Deller’s creative output since the 2000s with work combining performative art, video and installation. Valerie’s Snack Bar and Speak to the Earth and It Will Tell You explore the ties that bind people together — the much-vaunted “social cohesion”. The Battle of Orgreave and Putin’s Happy are presented as tools for investigating and examining political struggle and its treatment by the media, from the social conflict of the Thatcher years to the more recent debates about Brexit.
This historical context — political, social and artistic — is also in evidence at La Criée Centre of Contemporary Art with Warning Graphic Content, a collection of Deller’s poster and print work from 1993 to 2021 that features over 100 pieces. In direct response, the voice-over in Deller’s slideshow Beyond the White Wall recounts his projects undertaken in the public space that blur the boundaries between the space of art and the social space.
The exhibition at Frac Bretagne presents Deller as the great observer of vernacular culture in the United Kingdom. Folk Archive (2005 with Alan Kane) combines drawing, painting, film, performative art, costume, decoration, political opinions and humour alongside some surprising objects. The work celebrates a vast range of British pastimes and pursuits, demonstrating that folk art in Britain is widespread and in good health. As a counterpart to this installation, three films address the appropriation of popular culture: English Magic (2013), Everybody in the Place: an Incomplete History of Britain 1984-1992 (2018) and Our Hobby is Depeche Mode (2006, with Nick Abraham).