Cultural traces from the city of Manchester, England, are viewed through the lens of contemporary British artist Jeremy Deller in Jeremy Deller: Manchester Tracks, which opened at the Museum of Art Rhode Island School of Design
Friday, November 18.
The exhibition highlights the RISD Museum of Arts January 2011 acquisition of Dellers Shaun Ryders Family Tree (2008), along with a selection of materials drawn from the artists projects in and about the northwestern English city of Manchester. Acquired through the Museums Richard Brown Baker Fund for Contemporary British Art, Shaun Ryders Family Tree reflects Dellers remix approach to popular art forms and vernacular culture, and his love of music and Manchester.
Jeremy Deller is an important artist working in a hybrid realm of production," says Sabrina Locks, Curatorial Assistant for Contemporary Art and curator of the exhibition. Acting as an artist, orchestrator, collaborator, curator, and/or director of a range of projects including films, processions, historical reenactments, demonstrations, exhibitions, and publications, the collaborative and social aspects of a project or place often become a central medium of his work.
Dellers choice to create work about Manchester is rooted in the dichotomy of its prominence and decline as the world's first industrial city and its significance as the birthplace of some of the most influential British music of the late 20th century. Once a flourishing industrial center for textile manufacturing (dubbed Cottonopolis at the turn of the 19th century), Manchester suffered under the economic policies of Margaret Thatcher in the late 1970s and throughout the 80s, resulting in a significant reduction of its labor force and dramatic shift in the social landscape and identity of the city. The importance of the Manchester music scene to citys post-industrial era has been widely mythologized in popular culturefrom the punk-era of the 1970s through the Madchester scene of the 80s and 90s. Bands that came out of Manchester during this time gained international cult followings, (Buzzcocks, Joy Division, New Order, The Smiths, James, Oasis, and The Chemical Brothers, among others), and it was during this Madchester era that the Happy Mondays seminal 1988 record, Bummed, was a leading influence.
Shaun Ryders Family Tree traces a history of the city through the working-class roots of the Happy Mondays lead singer, Shaun Ryder. The piece features the Bummed album cover, 20 years after the records release by the influential Manchester music label Factory Records. With its close-cropped, acid-pink portrait of Shaun Ryder, designed by Central Station, Deller displays the album alongside a vinyl-text genealogy of Ryders family, designed by Scott King. The family tree lists the names and occupations of the singers Mancunian relatives dating back to the 1820s, when the Industrial Revolution was at full steam.
Manchester Tracks also includes two videos and a handmade banner from Dellers Procession (2009). A large-scale street parade celebrating the citys local culture and history, Procession was organized by the artist for the 2009 Manchester International Festival. One video documents Procession while the otherSteel Harmony Bolton / Steel Band (2009)features a steel band from Greater Manchester playing hit songs by the bands Buzzcocks and Joy Division. Commissioned by Deller, the band originally performed live at the event. Dellers Procession Banner (2009), produced in collaboration with British banner maker Ed Hall, lists the participating townships of Greater Manchester. In the RISD Museums exhibition, it serves as a locative entry point to the larger Procession project.
Together these objects reveal Dellers artistic interest in the social connections around cultural icons and events, and his reinvestment in the histories and contexts of their creation, says Locks.
Manchester Tracks includes archival film footage from early- to mid-20th-century parades and public gatherings in Manchester, on loan from the North West Film Archive at Manchester Metropolitan University and drawn from source material included in Dellers Procession exhibition at Cornerhouse, a Manchester contemporary arts center.
Jeremy Deller was born in London in 1966 and studied art history at the Courtland Institute of Art. He won the Turner Prize in 2004an honor given each year to one British artist younger than 50, recognizing an outstanding exhibition or other presentation of their work. Deller is the subject of an upcoming retrospective at Londons Hayward Gallery in 2012. Some of his well-known projects include It Is What It Is: Conversations About Iraq (2009), Folk Archive (2005), Memory Bucket (2003), and The Battle of Orgreave (2001).