Jeremy Deller

Beyond the White Walls


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Not on display

Jeremy Deller born 1966
Video, high definition, colour and sound (stereo)
Duration: 26min, 11sec
Purchased 2016


Beyond the White Walls 2012 is a video that takes the form of a slide show of images, with spoken commentary by the artist, documenting projects and artworks that he has carried out in the public domain over a twenty-year period. The work was originally made for Deller’s retrospective solo exhibition Joy in People at the Hayward Gallery, London, in 2012. It records performative and ephemeral projects – designed for a specific context with a limited lifespan – that are not easily represented in the gallery in a conventional way, as the title suggests. The work can be installed in its own room with a mural surrounding the entrance depicting a giant pair of staring eyes and a gaping mouth through which the viewer walks. The video can also be displayed on a monitor as long as it is large enough for the text to be read easily. The work exists in an edition of three, of which this copy is number three.

The video begins with Deller describing his earliest experiments with works intended for public circulation through covert interventions, from fly posters designed for student notice boards and nightclubs, to car bumper stickers, banknotes and t-shirts bearing slogans. Such projects, while often slight in nature, reflect Deller’s desire from the outset to make work that is only truly activated in the public realm, either by intercepting unsuspecting passers-by or through orchestrated events that bring together different cultural traditions and social groups. Projects such as Brian Epstein Died for You 1994 and Butterfly Ball 1995 reveal Deller’s interest in eccentric individuals who have nevertheless had a significant impact on British culture (Beatles manager Brian Epstein and nightclub owner Peter Stringfellow respectively). Unconvention 1998 documents an exhibition of artworks and events held at Cardiff’s Centre for Visual Arts based on Welsh band the Manic Street Preachers’ political beliefs, intellectual interests and ‘tastes in art’. Other projects include Folk Archive 1998–2005, his collaboration with Alan Kane (born 1961) documenting and collecting the vernacular culture of Britain, and public commissions such as Speak to the Earth and It Will Tell You 2007–17 (a long-term ongoing project with the Klein Gardens in Munster for Skulptur Projekte Munster in which participants are creating scrapbooks over a ten year period) and Risk Assessment 2008, a work for Folkestone Triennial in which local residents were invited to perform unannounced slapstick actions throughout the town.

Despite the disparate nature of Deller’s projects, Beyond the White Walls reveals the threads and themes that recur throughout his work and that continue to characterise his practice: namely, his non-hierarchical approach to culture in its broadest sense; a self-awareness of his position as a middle class, public-school-educated man; his belief in the power of fandom; the necessity of a certain level of humour and embarrassment; the importance of displaying failures as well as successes; the relationship of the individual to the collective, and the private to the public; and his desire to make visible the myriad and unconventional paths to knowledge. As such, Beyond the White Walls acts as an anthology of Deller’s artistic strategy and the breadth of his work from his early days as a student to public commissions some twenty years later. The video also offers a view of life in Britain at the end of the twentieth and beginning of the twenty-first centuries.

Further reading
Jeremy Deller, Epstein, Liverpool 2007.
Jeremy Deller: It Is What It Is, exhibition catalogue, New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York 2011.
Jeremy Deller: Joy in People, exhibition catalogue, Hayward Gallery, London 2012.

Lizzie Carey-Thomas
August 2015

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