- Jeremy Deller born 1966
- Printed cards on board
- Support: 356 x 415 mm
- Purchased 2017
“We’re here because we’re here” 2016 consists of twenty printed calling cards mounted in a four by five grid, framed and glazed within a black frame. Each card provides the name of a soldier killed in action on the first day of the Battle of the Somme on 1 July 1916. As well as the name, the cards provide details of the soldiers’ ages (where known), date of death and the battalion and regiment in which they served. The work relates to a performance that was carried out throughout Britain from 7 am to 7 pm on 1 July 2016, staged by Jeremy Deller in collaboration with Rufus Norris, director of London’s National Theatre, as part of the 14–18 NOW project to commemorate the centenary of the Battle of the Somme. For the performance, around 1,400 volunteers, aged between sixteen and fifty-two and wearing historically accurate First World War uniforms, appeared silently at various locations across the country including railway stations, shopping centres, markets and beaches. Each participant represented a specific soldier killed in action on the first day of the Somme and carried with them calling cards such as those framed within Deller’s edition, detailing a different soldier’s name, age, date of death and regiment. When approached by passers-by, they silently handed these cards out. Though the volunteers remained silent for most of the day, they would intermittently sing the words ‘we’re here because we’re here’ to the tune of Auld Lang Syne – words which were sung in this way in the trenches during the First World War.
Deller has said about the performance and the accompanying edition that, ‘I wanted to make a contemporary memorial to mark the centenary of the Battle of the Somme, one that moved around the UK with an unpredictability in which the participants, by their actions, took the memorial to the public.’ (Quoted online on 14–18 NOW website at https://becausewearehere.co.uk/we-are-here-about/, accessed 13 January 2017.) The event itself met with a very positive reception. It was discussed on BBC Radio 4’s Front Row programme, and Creative Review referred to the performance on Twitter as ‘one of the most meaningful UK public art projects of recent times’, (Creative Review, July 2016, pic.twitter.com/3OvdvQHOq1, accessed 13 January 2017). A documentary, Jeremy Deller: We’re here because we’re here was broadcast on BBC television on 13 November 2016, Remembrance Sunday, and there was a vast outpouring of social media posts thanks to the hashtag #wearehere which was printed on the calling cards.
As a document providing lasting visual representation of a performance project, the edition “We’re here because we’re here” is typical of Deller’s method of working. Also in Tate’s collection are the wall painting and print entitled The History of the World 1997–2004 and 1998 respectively (Tate T12868 and P78412). These works provide a graphic visual rationale for Deller’s project Acid Brass 1996, in which acid house anthems were arranged for brass band and performed at a number of venues. Acid Brass grew out of Deller’s proposition that the two defining moments of 1980s Britain were acid house culture and the miners’ strike of 1984–5. Similarly, the installation The Battle of Orgreave Archive (An Injury to One is an Injury to All), also in Tate’s collection (Tate T12185), documents and addresses the confrontation in 1984 between the police and the miners taking part in the strike in Yorkshire organised by the National Union of Mineworkers, and Jeremy Deller’s re-enactment of the same conflict in 2001, which he called The Battle of Orgreave.
“We’re here because we’re here” was one of the largest arts participation projects ever staged in Britain, with hundreds of additional volunteers working behind the scenes. Produced by Birmingham Repertory Theatre and the National Theatre, in collaboration with twenty-three organisations including Lyric Theatre Belfast, Manchester Royal Exchange, National Theatre of Scotland, National Theatre Wales, Northern Stage, Playhouse Derry-Londonderry, Salisbury Playhouse, Sheffield Theatres and Theatre Royal Plymouth, this was the first time so many theatres worked together on a country-wide participation project. Deller’s piece was published in an edition of one hundred with twenty artist’s proofs and sold by the Imperial War Museum, London to raise funds for 14–18 NOW, an arts programme established to commemorate the centenary of the First World War. This copy is number thirty-one in the edition.
Joy in People, Jeremy Deller, exhibition catalogue, Hayward Gallery, London 2012.
14-18 NOW: WW1 Centenary Art Commissions, https://beausewearehere.co.uk/we-are-here-about/, accessed 13 January 2017.
Mark Sinclair, ‘We’re Here Because We’re Here – A Silent Commemoration of the Soldiers of the Somme’, Creative Review, vol.36, no.7, July 2016.