Beautifully shot footage highlights birds of prey, landing and on the wing. The giant claw of a scrapyard crane lifts a Range Rover into a car crusher. Kids and adults frolic in the artist’s inflatable version of Stonehenge. Marchers in Angry Birds costumes parade in London’s Lord Mayor’s Show, waving to the crowds. Accompanying the proceedings are the tintinnabulations of the Melodians Steel Orchestra, ringing out selections by Ralph Vaughan Williams, David Bowie, and A Guy Called Gerald.
English Magic, 2012, the title film for an exhibition by Jeremy Deller (British, b. London, 1966) in the British Pavilion at the 2013 Venice Biennale, is an idiosyncratic collective portrait of Britishness that stretches from the ancient to the contemporary. At the same time, the film’s captivating and sometimes bewildering imagery allows for open-ended interpretation. The eclectic quality of the piece, incorporating folk and vernacular objects and topics, as well as the use of musicians and specialized technicians as actors and participants, is characteristic of the artist’s expansive filmmaking process.
Represented in the Hirshhorn’s 2008 exhibition The Cinema Effect: Illusion, Reality, and the Moving Image, Part II: Realisms by his masterwork The Battle of Orgreave, 2001, a reenactment of a 1984 conflict between police and striking miners, the Turner Prize–winning Deller continues to renew his approach and address a broad range of sociopolitical and aesthetic concerns.
As an art history undergraduate at the Courtauld Institute of Art, Deller met Andy Warhol and was invited to visit New York. During the two weeks he spent at the Factory, Deller realized that he wanted to be an artist himself: “You could make art out of whatever you were interested in—you could run a magazine, make film, TV, prints, paintings, music production…”
Deller has done virtually all of these things—and many more. He will be speaking about the ideas that concern him, the people he has met, and the many diverse paths his work has followed.
This event is co-sponsored by the British Council and American University’s Studio Art Program.