Jeremy Deller: Joy in People

2012-4-7

This exhibition of artwork by Jeremy Deller presents a challenge because of its scope. Not only because it spans twenty years of his work, but also because of the variety of subjects it tackles. There is music, war, wrestling, miners, and bats. So what is it all about?

Fortunately, the answer is given in one of the earliest works on display, The Uses of Literacy which takes its name from a book by Richard Hoggart. Hoggart is a seminal figure in the field of cultural studies, which tries to elevate popular culture as a field of study to the same level as high culture.

Cultural studies was a protest against the privileged position of one class over another, and Deller's work contains a similar complaint. "Hell is Other People's Money," explains an embossing machine by the exit. It is this focus on class which gives both cultural studies and Deller's work its Britishness, as much as the subject matter it considers.

But Deller's work is also a celebration of popular culture. Unlike cultural studies, which can suck the pleasure out of anything, Deller approaches his subjects with real affection and yes, joy. In Acid Brass, a brass band performs The KLF's "What Time Is Love?," thereby connecting Acid House with Brass Band music, while simultaneously broadening their appeal. I can't recall reading a cultural studies text which has achieved the same feat.

Jeremy Deller: Joy in People is at the Hayward Gallery until the 13th of May.


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