Jeremy Deller; Interviewed
Many of your work documents are subcultures, this must make for pretty wild research?
It is not all concerned with subcultures. From time to time some are, but as you know research is not rigorous and slapdash.
What’s your research process like?
A little like my student output , I can barely use a computer!
How do you find the topic for your next project? Which work was most fun to make and why?
I am just drawn to topics that interest me. It is not a bad life, I find I have most fun when I get my hands a little dirty!
You spent a few weeks at the Factory with Andy Warhol, and you also met Francis Bacon. Could you tell us about those experiences and any anecdotes or conversations you remember from that time?
I don’t talk about Andy Warhol I have retired the story for a few years…
I bumped into Francis Bacon when I was seventeen, I was writing a long A-Level Art History essay on him, he was very kind and I managed to be granted a short interview with him, much to the annoyance of the people around him; who wanted him to stop talking to me!
What did you study at The Courtauld? Who was your professor?
I studied Baroque; At the time it was classed as Modern Art- That was a joke by the way!
Our tutor was Jennifer Fletcher, she loved Italian paintings and would make us stand in front of Artworks for hours till we hallucinated and envisioned all sorts of things.
What made you choose Art History rather than Fine Arts? How do you think that influenced your practice?
I chose Art History because I liked both Art and History, so I thought it would be good way to combine them. We were four students in class, one of whom is now the Director of the National Gallery. I was not allowed to do Art after 12 because I was not very good at drawing.
What was the atmosphere like at The Courtauld at the time? Did it differ from what was happening in the ‘London Arts Scene’?
It was a bit strange… No one would really speak to one another! We were still in the old house, which was quite unique, and truthfully, it did not seem to have any relationship to anything of the time, let alone the ‘London Arts Scene’.
You’ve collaborated with musicians ranging from the Williams-Fairey (Big Brass Band) to Iggy Pop. What do you think music transmits, that a visual interpretation wouldn’t be able to?
Well music is a good transmitter and I find it is fun to work outside a purely visual art context too.
What was working with Iggy Pop like? and how did you convince him to pose for a live drawing class? Who else would you be interested in collaborating with?
I asked Iggy to pose nude about 10 years ago, and he said no. However this time he was very keen to pose nude and he agreed almost instantly. He said he had not posed earlier because he felt he was too young to do so (at the time he was 60). I have no particular ‘wish list’ of people I would like to work with, one thing is for sure though, I am convinced I will work with music/musicians again.
Many of your exhibitions include memorabilia – real or recreated – including posters, t-shirts, campaign badges etc. What personal collections do you have?
I try not to have personal collections. In fact I used to collect any old rubbish, but I have been throwing stuff out lately.
The banners, tiedye, smileys, give a way’s… lend themselves well to social media diffusion. How do you feel about this form of ‘fast consumption’ of your work? Does the seemingly democratic dispersal relate back to the original intention of the slogans you’re using?
Its good that it is out there, and yes, I feel it is good for it to go back into the mess of pop culture.
What’s with bats?
I believe they are beautiful creatures , I could watch them forever!
You’ve designed a bank note for the Brixton pound, organised a procession in Manchester, and created a Stonehenge bouncy castle. What’s next?
A short film inspired by ‘Alice in Wonderland’. Based on a true story about a Japanese ‘twerker’ taking part in a dancehall competition in Jamaica. It will be in a show very close to The Courtauld Institute of Art this September.
The interview was conducted by Courtauld Institute alumna Natalia Fuller (MA 2014)