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A review by Pauline Flannery for EXTRA! EXTRA!

 

 

 


 

David Shrigley – Brain Activity

 


 

 

Curated by Dr Cliff Lauson

 

Jeremy Deller – Joy in People

 

Curated by Ralph Rugoff

 

Hayward Gallery

 

 

Until 13 May 2012

 

Jeremy Deller readily admits that he didn’t go to Art School, that he can’t draw or sculpt. Yet the 2004 Turner-Prize winner knows what he is good at - making things happen. And he’s been doing it, successfully, for over two decades. This is what he does. Much of his multi-disciplined work is in collaboration with others, and this creative output, in the first major exhibition of his work – Joy in People at the Hayward Gallery, spans installations, photography, films, posters and performance.

The It Is What It Is, 2009 is a good case in point. A mangled car, after a suicide bomb attack, is at the centre of this installation. In one corner are unoccupied chairs, waiting for people to sit down and discuss – nobody comes. A film of the car’s journey runs in the background, a journey which Deller took with an American soldier and an Iraqi citizen, while maps of the British Isles and Iraq dominate one wall. This sets up, according to Deller ‘the conversation piece from hell.’  

The theme of protest is evident throughout on both a private and global scale. From the Open Bedroom, 1988 – 1994, the staged Battle of Orgreave (An Injury To One Is An Injury To All), 2001, a film featuring the clash between miners and police in South Yorkshire in the ‘80’s, to the wry maps of the British Isles and Iraq with their inter-changed place names.

‘Feels like a walk around his head’ commented one member of the public. As if to emphasise this, a huge flow-chart displays his thinking behind a musical project, Acid Brass. It forms part of the central exhibition area which houses Valerie’s Snack Bar, 2009, a recreation of the Bury greasy-spoon café. This was a people procession – orchestrated by Deller – which celebrated Manchester’s International Festival. Hanging from the ceiling are huge banners, including ‘the last industrial revolution’ and the droll ‘this rendering will make this scaffolding dangerous!’

These impress in size and scale. Yet they link back to the small, modest emblems on the poster identifying upwards of 200 closed collieries, from the 1980’s and ‘90’s. This marks Deller out as a contemporary social and cultural chronicler: his homage to the Manic Street Preachers chroniclers in their turn, transposed graffiti from the men’s toilet in the old British Library, through to the image of the mild, bearded figure of Dr David Kelly, as a striking sculptural proposal for the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square.

What links artists Jeremy Deller and David Shrigley, also at the Hayward, is their preoccupation with ‘stuff.’ Shrigley admits to a fascination with ‘found stuff’: graffiti….shopping lists, telephone doodles, hand-drawn maps and diagrams. Just as Deller features view masters, photographs and scraps of paper with lyrics, doggerels and verse. Shrigley too has been working for two decades, initially as a cartoonist, and his satirist’s eye informs everything.   

Brain Activity is David Shrigley’s first major show in London and includes 240 exhibits: drawings, sculpture – experiments in form and size – photographs and animations. Collectively the exhibition is witty and fun. The instances which provoke most reaction, mainly humourous, are the series of headless or stuffed animals because of their degree of realism: the casual abandonment of the rat under the display board, the ostrich, the Jack Russell pup – complete with the caption ‘I am dead’ - and the obsequious-looking squirrel.

The creatures link to the headless drummer animation, 2012, which is projected next to a grey, granite headstone which features a shopping list: cornflakes, bread, aspirins and tomatoes. Shrigley’s approach to death is strictly gallows’ humour. The mock side-chapel gates with the text ‘do not linger here’, lead to a series of pictures which are immediate in their literal and philosophical appeal: the skeleton waving with the caption ‘goodbye’ or the bird with text ‘I eat worms.’

There’s a real sense of anarchic playfulness in the outside, often diminutive exhibits, which in their small context, recall the huge Gormley casts of 2007. Shrigley’s objects are a mix of text such as LOOK AT THIS, bronze, 2012; IT, bronze, 2010, and inside exhibits such as What Decay Looks Like, 2001, with free-standing, black-speckled tooth. Themes of death, sex and decay are everywhere; as are references to Margritte (when is a pipe not a pipe?) and Dali in the untitled swarm of black insect-like creatures, 2012.  
Both exhibitions engage, both provoke, both in their breadth and range of media make you look at things……stuff……differently. And after all isn’t this what Art is really all about?.............


 

 

Hayward Gallery
Southbank Centre
Belvedere Road
London SE1 8XX
Runs until 13th May
Tickets £10, for both exhibitions
http://ticketing.southbankcentre.co.uk/find/hayward-gallery-visual-arts

 

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