Assignment One

Part A

My views on what art is have definitely changed a bit. I can now see that something doesn’t have to be a physical image to stimulate imagination or recreate a sensation. I’ve racked my brain attempting to find a word to categorise Contemporary pieces as something different but have come to the conclusion that as much as I dislike it, it is art. Whereas my own tastes have not changed I can now see that whereas I prefer a physical rendition of an image and take stimulation from that, for other people the image is not needed. They only need or want to be stimulated in a certain direction and to fill in the gaps for themselves.

  As a result of completing Part One I have learnt several things. I have learnt that popularity is not a guarantee of quality, attention can be drawn to items because of their shock value rather than their skill content. I have learnt the value of looking at lots of different sources to find a range of opinions on the same topic. I have also learnt that there are a lot more sources of information on the internet that I should be consulting than I had previously realised. With this, the value of ascertaining whether the source is Primary or Secondary has also become more obvious to me.

 Bearing in mind my limitations resource-wise (sat on a military outpost in the Antarctic Circle with limited internet) I think my Learning Log is progressing quite well. Currently it suffers from lack of external material such as postcards, and I am not capable of getting to any exhibitions. I am attempting to remedy this by exploring collections of work online. It could be improved by more research, there is always room for more research! I think my learning about Contemporary Art could also be improved by more exploration of somewhere like the Tate Modern, ideally in person. Another lesson I have picked out to take with me is the power of suggestion. Until now I have always striven to provide an entire message within an image, experimenting with leaving the interpretation a little more open to the viewer is something which could be interesting to explore. 

Part B

Interpret Jeremy Deller’s Battle of Orgreave and reflect on the importance of time and place in this piece. Write 800-1000 words.

Post Tutor Feedback

My tutor made many excellent points in post-assignment feedback, some of which I wish to incorporate into the essay prior to submission for assessment. These are;

  • giving the reasons that I disagree with Jones comparison to a Renaissance painting
  • countering my own view by presenting both sides of the argument
  • adjusting my remarks about the job of the military vs the police
  • make my essay less of a political statement about status quo and refocus on Dellers interpretation of Orgreave
  • adddress whether I consider Deller to have told the truth/have a bias/have an opinion

Below is the text of my revisited essay, following that are my references and then the original essay to allow easy comparison.

Revisited Essay

In this essay I am going to interpret Jeremy Deller’s work ‘Battle of Orgreave’ and reflect on the importance of time and place within the piece.

  Having read about some of Dellers ideas for projects in the Guardian article (https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2001/jun/19/artsfeatures), particularly the Northern brass band playing acid house tunes, I am not sure that even the artist thought that his proposal would be accepted by Artangel. Initially I was doubtful about whether enactment could be classed as an art. In his article for the Guardian newspaper journalist Jonathon Jones makes the case that the placement of members of the cast in various scenarios resembles a Renaissance painting, a reflection of Dellers education in Art History in which he specialised on the Baroque. I disagree with the comparison to the old masters because I do not see any particular conventions adhered too or familiar groupings of characters. However I do see that this re-enactment, and the emotions it would provoke in the onlookers does fit my new found definition for Contemporary Art as I described in Part A. There is one photograph which sprang to mind at the Renaissance reference. In another Guardian article. https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/jan/03/like-a-beautiful-painting-image-of-new-years-mayhem-in-manchester-goes-viral)  

Related image
goodman, J. (2019). How Is a Photograph of Drunken New Year’s Eve Revelers Like a Renaissance Painting?. [image] Available at: https://news.artnet.com/art-world/drunk-renaissance-new-years-eve-401816 [Accessed 18 Jul. 2019].

This photograph taken by chance by Joel Goodman on Wells Street in Manchester on New Years Eve 2015, became famous for it’s characters positioning and accidental adherence to the Fibonacci Spiral. Whilst considering this photograph I realised that there could be many different angles to Deller’s composition. By using reenactors he allows people not just to see the art through the medium of photographs or pictures, but also to experience it, to live it. It would be the equivalent of stepping inside a historical film on tv.

  The importance of time if the piece is apparent in many ways. In practical terms the co-ordination, literally the timing, of so many reenactors to recreate so many previously recorded events would have been a mammoth undertaking. The timing of the re-enactment, approximately 20 years after the actual event, links the events of Orgreave with a new generation. Something that the young people of the area would only have heard about from their parents would be made real for them providing a shared experience. Reenacting events with participants from the original ‘battle’ could also potentially give them the opportunity to readdress their bias of the time. Often strongly held beliefs can colour recollection of events. The choice to have the reenactors in historically accurate costume set against the backdrop of modern Orgreave shows the passage of time in several ways. Most obviously this will be illustrated in the fashion of the different eras but also in the rejuvenation of the area since the 80’s and the strikes.

  As described in ‘Place’ by Dean and Millar (page 14) ‘many important historical events are now known simply by the place in which they occurred’, or as James Joyce in a preparatory note to Ulysses wrote, ‘places remember events’. Normally this refers more to events such as Hiroshima which shaped the course of human conflict, but, on a more local scale, the same can be said of Orgreave. The re-enactment had to be staged in Orgreave, the action and the location are the two essential elements that give the event meaning. Taking the action and playing it elsewhere would not make any sense and vice versa.

  I find that the messages that come out of the combined art experience, the re-enactment and the subsequent installations are mostly inflammatory and anti-establishment. Being in the military myself also gives me a particular view on the event and therefore the messages I receive from the reconstruction. The main job of the military is to fight the enemy and win, the main job of the police is to protect the people. If  the military are instructed to act as the police, the people become the enemy and that would have lead to even worse confrontations, therefore it was not the military the Unions organised gangs had to deal with. The miners were breaking the law, the police acted accordingly and were met with heavy resistance. If the miners had dispersed as any law abiding citizen should, then Orgreave would never have happened. What frustrates me so severely is that when they chose to escalate the action and fight the police everyone acts so surprised that various officers ‘lost it’ and violent incidents ensued. The police are law keepers and people protectors, they’re not superhumans and they’re not trained for warfare. The message that in my opinion the  installations are giving of some noble call to arms by the ‘victimised’ miners being quashed by the thuggish autocratic state is utterly ridiculous. The video on www.jeremydeller.org showing clips of the re-enactment footage alongside the original event footage serves only to reinforce the divisions in a society which for a few, may have finally started to fade with time.

  The signature scene is of the miners being chased by a police cavalry charge, I think this is supposed to shock the viewer. Quite how else people imagine that rioters can be cleared out of a built up area to both contain the violence they are responsible for and protect everyone else is beyond me. In my opinion Deller has reawakened a ghost in Orgreave. The pits had to close, as it says in ‘Place’ Pages 106-107 global capitalism dictated that local identity had to be sacrificed for the international trade in commodities. It was devastating for the communities involved but it made financial sense for the country.

The recreation of events cannot be classed as having a bias, they were recorded at the time, however I heavily question the way Deller has presented them. From my experience of the exhibition, the bias of the presentation is anti-establishment so in my opinion Deller cannot be classed as a neutral party reawakening history.

Deller has thoroughly but needlessly made fresh the arguments from both sides, I would rather have seen him spend Artangels commission on the Northern brass bands playing acid house music.

Resources Used

Artangel.org.uk. (2019). The Battle of Orgreave. [online] Available at: https://www.artangel.org.uk/project/the-battle-of-orgreave/ [Accessed 18 Jul. 2019].

Jeremydeller.org. (2019). Jeremy Deller. [online] Available at: http://www.jeremydeller.org/ [Accessed 18 Jul. 2019].

Tate. (2019). ‘The Battle of Orgreave Archive (An Injury to One is an Injury to All)’, Jeremy Deller, 2001 | Tate. [online] Available at: https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/deller-the-battle-of-orgreave-archive-an-injury-to-one-is-an-injury-to-all-t12185 [Accessed 18 Jul. 2019].

Conn, D. (2019). Thirty-five years on, Orgreave campaigners still seek justice. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/jun/15/thirty-five-years-on-orgreave-campaigners-still-seek-answers [Accessed 18 Jul. 2019].

Frieze.com. (2019). Jeremy Deller. [online] Available at: https://frieze.com/article/jeremy-deller [Accessed 18 Jul. 2019].

Original Essay

In this essay I am going to interpret Jeremy Deller’s work ‘Battle of Orgreave’ and reflect on the importance of time and place within the piece.

  Having read about some of Dellers ideas for projects in the Guardian article (https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2001/jun/19/artsfeatures), particularly the Northern brass band playing acid house tunes, I am not sure that even the artist thought that his proposal would be accepted by Artangel. Initially I was doubtful about whether enactment could be classed as an art. In his article for the Guardian newspaper journalist Jonathon Jones makes the case that the placement of members of the cast in various scenarios resembles a Renaissance painting, a reflection of Dellers education in Art History in which he specialised on the Baroque. I disagree with the comparison to the old masters but I do see that this re-enactment, and the emotions it would provoke in the onlookers, does fit my new found definition for Contemporary Art as I described in Part A. There is one photograph which sprang to mind at the Renaissance reference. In another Guardian article. https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/jan/03/like-a-beautiful-painting-image-of-new-years-mayhem-in-manchester-goes-viral)  

Related image
goodman, J. (2019). How Is a Photograph of Drunken New Year’s Eve Revelers Like a Renaissance Painting?. [image] Available at: https://news.artnet.com/art-world/drunk-renaissance-new-years-eve-401816 [Accessed 18 Jul. 2019].

This photograph taken by chance by Joel Goodman on Wells Street in Manchester on New Years Eve 2015, became famous for it’s characters positioning and accidental adherence to the Fibonacci Spiral. Whilst considering this photograph I realised that there could be many different angles to Deller’s composition. By using reenactors he allows people not just to see the art through the medium of photographs or pictures, but also to experience it, to live it. It would be the equivalent of stepping inside a historical film on tv.

  The importance of time if the piece is apparent in many ways. In practical terms the co-ordination, literally the timing, of so many reenactors to recreate so many previously recorded events would have been a mammoth undertaking. The timing of the re-enactment, approximately 20 years after the actual event, links the events of Orgreave with a new generation. Something that the young people of the area would only have heard about from their parents would be made real for them providing a shared experience. The choice to have the reenactors in historically accurate costume set against the backdrop of modern Orgreave shows the passage of time in several ways. Most obviously this will be illustrated in the fashion of the different eras but also in the rejuvenation of the area since the 80’s and the strikes.

  As described in ‘Place’ by Dean and Millar (page 14) ‘many important historical events are now known simply by the place in which they occurred’, or as James Joyce in a preparatory note to Ulysses wrote, ‘places remember events’. Normally this refers more to events such as Hiroshima which shaped the course of human conflict, but, on a more local scale, the same can be said of Orgreave. The re-enactment had to be staged in Orgreave, the action and the location are the two essential elements that give the event meaning. Taking the action and playing it elsewhere would not make any sense and vice versa.

  I find that the messages that come out of the combined art experience, the re-enactment and the subsequent installations are mostly inflammatory and anti-establishment. Being in the military myself also gives me a particular view on the event and therefore the messages I receive from the reconstruction. The job of the military is to fight the enemy and win, the job of the police is to protect the people. If  the military are instructed to act as the police, the people become the enemy and that would have lead to even worse confrontations, therefore it was not the military the Unions organised gangs had to deal with. The miners were breaking the law, the police acted accordingly and were met with heavy resistance. If the miners had dispersed as any law abiding citizen should, then Orgreave would never have happened. What frustrates me so severely is that when they chose to escalate the action and fight the police everyone acts so surprised that various officers ‘lost it’ and violent incidents ensued. The police are law keepers and people protectors, they’re not superhumans and they’re not trained for warfare. The message that the  installations seem to be giving of some noble call to arms by the ‘victimised’ miners being quashed by the thuggish autocratic state is utterly ridiculous. The video on www.jeremydeller.org showing clips of the re-enactment footage alongside the original event footage serves only to reinforce the divisions in a society which for a few, may have finally started to fade with time.

  The signature scene is of the miners being chased by a police cavalry charge, I think this is supposed to shock the viewer. Quite how else people imagine that rioters can be cleared out of a built up area to both contain the violence they are responsible for and protect everyone else is beyond me. In my opinion Deller has reawakened a ghost in Orgreave. The pits had to close, as it says in ‘Place’ Pages 106-107 global capitalism dictated that local identity had to be sacrificed for the international trade in commodities. It was devastating for the communities involved but it made financial sense for the country. The Unions had to be broken, no organisation can be allowed to hold the Government to ransom otherwise civil wars won’t be a matter of re-enactment, they’ll be on the streets outside your front door and the first person you’ll be wanting to turn up is a policeman. Deller has thoroughly but needlessly made fresh the arguments from both sides, I would rather have seen him spend Artangels commission on the Northern brass bands playing acid house music.