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Jeremy Deller
by Judith Findlay

Jeremy Deller, "The Existentialist"
Jeremy Deller, "I Miss the World of Twist"

Cabinet's ground floor passage, lit with ultra violet light and hung each side with orange day-glo posters, felt creepy and quietly aggressive (behind a door could dwell a religious fanatic or political extremist silently having a rant; theorizing about conspiracies). I walked past and pondered signs reading, "Whatever Happened to David Bowie," "Spike Milligan is God," "Keith Moon Matters," "Brian Epstein Died for You," " My Mate Fancies You" and a smiley face. "I Am Human and I Need To Be Loved, Just Like Everyone Else Does" and "I've Seen This Happen In Other People's Lives and Now Its Happening In Mine" were pasted to the walls, too--all quasi-religious sayings or verses of teenage angst/mid-life crisis. Up the stairs was a door, from which a serious back-beat filtered indicating some pretty cool tunes. A small porcelain plaque read "Jeremy's Room" and sure enough, through the door was Jeremy sitting on his un-made Union Jack duvet-covered bed. Thankfully he didn't look disturbed or dangerous. Thankfully the posters downstairs were part of his show called "At Home."

Deller turned up the volume of his huge amp--the source of the really cool sounds--above which, on the wall, was the instruction "Let Them Eat Bass," and put the kettle on for a cup of tea. I settled down to watch a slide show overlooked by a large wall painting of Ozzy Osborne: the existentialist. First up came the title, "The Kent Archeological Society's Monthly Dig," followed by images of people raking around for bargains at a car boot sale. Next, came a picture of a village hall with a sign reading "Jumbo Sale Today" and Deller's "thumbs-up" of approval in the corner. A nice shot of a romantic landscape was next--a picture of a scene of trees beneath towering chimneys breathing smoke and then one of an "I love Joy Riding" sticker stuck (by Deller) to the bumper of a police car. Images of Veterans parading at V.E. day and of Take That fans posing outside their idols's concert venue followed. They wore the badges of their loyalty: medals on the chests of the pensioners and the marks of Take That's logo (like signs of blessing or baptism) on the foreheads of the youths. Then came the Middle Class Posse and Middle Class Hand Signals (just in case middle class people want to form middle class gangs and thus quietly convey by hand "cups of tea," "Radio Four," "The Antiques Road," "Single Sex Schools," and "Church of England"--all strongholds of British middle culture. There was information about student life, money, time wasters, drugs, Deller's parents' house (a semi-detached south London home, where Deller lives and where previously he has had a show) and Robbie Williams the bad boy of Take That wearing one of Deller's T-shirts: "My Booze Hell" (the other T-shirt in the set reads, "My Drug Shame").

Next door, more fluorescent posters, photographs, newspaper cuttings and press releases told of fake exhibitors, guided tours and heritage events: "I Miss the World of Twist," "Do You Remember the First Time," "Together 4 Ever," "Keith Moon at the Tate," "World of Gazza at the Museum of Mankind," "Shaun Ryder at the Cornerhouse," "Haunted Milton Keynes," "Jack the Ripper's Bath," and an authentic reenactment of an historical battle (the miners versus the police in 1980s Thatcher-ite Britain).

Deller loves gossip and evidence of dubious goings on graced the walls as well: a dinner given by singer Morrissey for comedians Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer, which all went horribly wrong and an affair between an extremely well-known, aging rock star and a school girl Iranian princess that ended in abortion (which is scary if it's true and doesn't really matter if it's not--just one of life's fairy tales gone sour).

Back in "Jeremy's Room," Deller--temporarily leaving his parents' house--set up home in Cabinet, complete with the comforts of TV and VCR, his record collection encased in an old Red Cross box, a carpet, a poster of Kate Moss, photos of a few good nights out with friends and the Union Jack bed. The TV, a small bed-side portable, showed a recording of an MTV show--once again the best boy-band ever (Take That, of course), professional as always, give their best, trying to carry on while Robbie fools around, expressing himself through paint on canvas propped upon an artist's easel. Irony was about to leave the building.

"At Home" seemed so casual and familiar and yet so important and different--you glanced at things you thought you recognized only to double-take and realize their strangeness. A friendly fanatic, Deller reversed a popular culture (and art is part of that) which is so familiar and so shared, it can be shocking when you find that it's actually so different. Triviality, like the phenomenon of Robbie Williams and Take That, can be incredibly important (a joke can be deadly serious; humor, it's been said is pretty close to terror). "At Home" moved art and popular culture to a new residence where they set up a home together.

Judith Findlay

Aberdeen, Scotland
1996

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