To the Hayward Gallery yesterday evening and for one ten pound ticket got to see two stimulating exhibitions:
Jeremy Deller – Joy in People – an overview of Deller’s work from the last 20 years. I really like the spirit of his work: enquiring and politically engaged. He’s interested in communities and their (often unheard) stories, and working collaboratively. It’s a broad view of art and one that celebrates the creativity of ordinary people (for want of a better phrase). The Uses of Literacy, a project made with contributions from fans of the Manic Street Preachers, is powerful and poignant. The Battle of Orgreave, a re-enactment of one of the most violent confrontations of the 1984-5 miners’ strike, and the associated documentation and memorabilia, I still find very moving. It’s part of my history, in a small way. Going on one of the huge marches in support of the miners when I first moved to London. The yellow and red Coal Not Dole sticker I stuck on my wallet. Mixed and melancholy memories.
On a different tack, I share Deller’s fascination with bats. Exodus is a wonderful 3D film of bats swarming from a cave at dusk. Thousands of bats stream out at us as we’re plunged into their extraordinary sound world.
David Shrigley – Brain Activity. Quite a contrast. Shrigley isn’t overtly political, and it can be hard to see beyond the quirky greeting cards. I’ve bought a fair few of them and the ‘Lost Pigeon’ notice still raises a smile. And while there are a lot of his strange and funny drawings and photos in this show, there are also ceramics, sculptures and animations, all with an odd twist or a dark edge. Why do I like the array of large ceramic boots? Because they’re absurd and magical. There’s a giant, wobbly porcelain teacup, filled with ‘tea, milk, no sugar’. A headless stuffed ostrich, which I’m sure is going to reappear in a nightmare. A squirrel on a block of wood holding its detached head in its little paws. Cruel yet undeniably comical. The animations are delicious, especially Light Switch, which “nods affectionately at the work of the conceptual artist Martin Creed”, according to the exhibition guide. Headless Drummer is just that and somehow catchy and irresistible to watch. I smiled, I laughed, I felt uplifted; and that’s not to be sniffed at.