During the somewhat soggy opening of Jeremy Deller’s Sacrilege, a bouncy-castle Stonehenge, at CityLife sculpture park in Milan, we interviewed both the British artist and curator Massimiliano Gioni to find out more about the installation and the collaboration with Fondazione Trussardi.
The installation will be erect until Sunday, April 15th.
With Sacrilege, Deller brings to the heart of Milan a life-size inflatable reconstruction of the archeological site of Stonehenge – an icon of British culture and heritage, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1986.
Deller believes in the devaluation of artistic ego through the involvement of other people in the creative process and this gentle approach of his was evident throughout our interview with him as he hastily encouraged all passers; the young, the old, two legs or four to get involved, jump and play on the inflatable.
Meeting the artist: a rainy interview with Jeremy Deller
Lara Morrell: Well in true British style let’s start by talking about the weather, how perfectly apt it is? (It has been pouring with rain in Milan for the last few days)
Jeremy Deller: I know, brilliant isn’t it?! I’m soaking and we’ve spent the whole morning mopping and trying to empty the thing of water, you should jump on and have a go! (Jeremy interrupts our talk to usher a passerby and her dog onto the inflatable Stonehenge). Sorry, but the whole point is that people interact and play on it, thats what its all about, for people to enjoy it.
L.M.: Could you tell us a little about the title – why Sacrilege? Is it perhaps a way of covering your back?
J.D.: Perhaps yes, but that’s what I called it back in 2012 and that’s how it stayed, people seem to like it. At the time I thought people may think turning a pre-historic site in to a bouncy castle sacrilege, so to ward off any criticism I called it just that.
L.M.: ‘A week or so ago you handed out posters to commuters in stations in London and Liverpool with instructions on how to delete their Facebook profiles. Now in the light of yesterday’s Mark Zuckerburg hearing could you tell us some more about this intervention?
J.D.: Back in January I made a red t-shirt with a six step instruction on how to delete your Facebook account for an opening party at Kettle’s Yard, this was before the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke, then in its wake I was commissioned by the Rapid Response Unit News to make posters, they were printed on pink paper and handed out in Liverpool and London and also on the walls of the Facebook’s London headquarters.
The Rapid Response Unit is a Liverpool based cultural experiment which encourages artist to respond creatively to global events, believing in public engagement and free distribution.
L.M.: My Art Guides is based in Venice, you represented Britain in the British Pavilion for the Biennale in 2013 with English Magic, how has your vision of Britain and it’s ever weirder status changed since then, regarding Brexit for example? What was your experience of Venice like?
J.D.: Wow, that’s a big question and I need more time to think about it, but the show would be a lot different today, the country is ever more divided and bizarre. However in one of the rooms in the pavilion there is a reference to our relationship to Russia, with William Morris throwing a luxury yacht belonging to Roman Abramovich into the Venetian lagoon. I had a great time in Venice and the show was a great success, people reacted really well to it.
L.M.: On the topic of Brexit have you heard about the Brexiters proposal for the ‘Museum of Sovereignty’ a museum of Brexit leading to galleries displaying a selection of your old school friend Nigel Farage’s tweed jackets.
J.D.: No I haven’t heard about it, but I think its a brilliant idea, it will demonstrate just how absurd they all are!
From the curator’s perspective: a few questions for Massimiliano Gioni
Lara Morrell: How did the collaboration with Jeremy come about? When did you two start working together?
Massimiliano Gioni: Jeremy and I go back a long way, we started working together for the first time in 2004 in San Sebastian when he organised one of his first parades and then we collaborated in 2006 at the Berlin biennale and in 2009 at New Museum. We met again at the Venice Biennale in 2013 where he was not in the international show but in the British pavilion which was even greater, its a friendship and long-lasting collaboration and we wanted to bring the piece to Milan since he installing it in Glasgow and London. It took some time to make it happen on a practical level because the city has strict regulations that prohibit the erection of any sort of structure in public green spaces. So we finally found a way to do it because this park technically doesn’t belong to the city yet as it’s in transition between private ownership (those who built CityLife) and the city. So it was because of this transition period it was possible to have access, it’s a technicality but it also demonstrates the patience Jeremy has when realising a project and it worked out well as its a strange and interesting context and it happens to be near miart.
L.M.: Why this specifically this piece of his? Is there any kind of underling message to the piece in this context?
MG: I don’t even know if he had this in mind in 2012, but certainly this piece sadly becomes more relevant today when certain ideas of nationalism and populism appropriate these types of symbols with xenophobic or nationalistic messages, that was what I read in his piece but I don’t know if this was what he had in mind. In Italy this type of imagery is very much associated with the myth of origins, which are regarded with suspicion, even in England as well. We had this occasion to work together in Milan and we took it and we’ll most probably work together again in the future. Typically with the foundation during Miart we hold smaller projects like this, not it terms of scale, but smaller in ambition, one-off unique projects.
L.M: Any Milan highlights to suggest for the visitors of Milan Art Week?
M.G: This is the kind of thing you do not want to disclose to the press! Ok, let me think…This is not meant to be self serving but what I do love about the Trussardi Foundation is that in a sense it has become a compass for the hidden history of the city tracing the different places where we have held exhibitions, for example two years ago in an abandoned art deco public bath near Porta Venezia we held a show by Sarah Lucas, Albergo Diurno – that’s a really amazing space but can be accessed during special openings only ( currently it is closed).
- Jeremy Deller at the opening of Sacrilege, City Life Park
- Sacrilege, Installation views, City Life Park
- Beatrice Trussardi, Jeremy Deller and Massimiliano Gioni
- Jeremy Deller