Assignment one – After feedback (Reflection & reworked essay)

Reflection

I was very nervous in sending the first assignment, especially after dedicating myself so much to it, and I had no idea what to expect. The feedback was so much more thorough than I expected and I realised how many details I had missed even after re-checking my essay numerous times. There were also some issues about what to include or not in the final assignments and how to properly send them; these were doubts that I had from the beginning and so now that I am more familiar with them I feel more at ease for the next assignment.

When it comes to the content of the essay, I was pointed out that I tend to include too many ideas and thus am not able to fully focus on the topic at hand. I completely agree with this and can identify it in my work. This is something that I’m working on. I’m not sure, however, how well I will be able to simplify and be more concise, as this is a reflection of myself (even present in my artistic work and my daily life).

For my next assignment I will be paying extra attention to the planning stage so that I can focus on what really matters and pick and choose from my ideas. Perhaps a solution would be to investigate and write down all the ideas that interest me and then not include in the essay those that aren’t completely relevant to it. Perhaps I could even add a blog entry with all this extra info that interested me.

Reworking of assignment

The Battle of Orgreave, 2001

I will be analysing and interpreting Jeremy Deller’s The Battle of Orgreave. The film is a re-enactment of the 1984 strike by the National Union of Mineworkers in Yorkshire, England. My main interest is in revealing how it deals with the themes of time and place. In order to achieve this, I will research the strike’s historical background, analyse the artist’s use of media and context, reference critic reviews, and give my own opinion.

It’s the first time I hear about this conflict and it is quickly apparent that it was a violent one, especially seeing as the labour strike has been dubbed a “battle”. My first impression as I watch the film excerpt is that it is very serious. I find it hard not to cringe as I see armed policemen on horses or with shields chasing the protesting miners, who retaliate with rocks and battle cries.

The re-enactment was filmed by Mike Figgis and co-commissioned by Artangel Media and Channel 4. It took place in 2001 with one thousand participants, including former miners and policemen that had been involved in the original dispute, inhabitants of Orgreave, and members of re-enactment societies. I can compare it to a game I used to play as a child, called cops and robbers, in which it was sometimes hard to tell who were the good guys and who were the bad guys. Adding to this ironic comparison, I was surprised to read that ‘in some cases former miners played police, and ex-policemen played miners’ (Farquharson, 2001). I find it inspiring that by changing their points of view, Deller influenced the veterans’ memories and experiences of an event that was previously fixed in another time.

It is easy to label this piece as simply a historical documentary, but it is important to note that since The Battle of Orgreave derives its meaning from people’s active participation in it, it also falls under the definition of performance art. It is also a site-specific piece because it was filmed in the original location of the 1984 strike, thus maintaining its important relationship with the placeThe collection of work, including video and documentation, were presented in a gallery space as installation art.

The installation is titled The Battle of Orgreave Archive (An Injury to One is an Injury to All) and contains texts, documents, objects, and other paraphernalia belonging to both events. The video, which is part of the installation, is shaky, reminiscent to the 1980s, contains loud sounds of conflict, and is shot from within the battle; all of this helps add to the feeling that we as viewers are part of it. The chaotic video, interrupted by original photographs and testimonials, achieves a high level of realism.

After putting much thought to the question of whether this piece is art, I can argue that it is. I can compare it to Francisco Goya’s painting of The Third of May 1808, where he shows Napoleon’s army executing Madrilenians after they revolted against French occupation. Inspired by Goya, Pablo Picasso painted Massacre in Korea (1951), which shows innocent civilians from North Korea being massacred by anti-communist American soldiers. Despite the fact that Deller’s work is not a painting, it shares a similar theme, realism, and social and political commentary with these two artworks. It seems logical that the Orgreave strike, being relatively recent, be represented via the more accessible media that is film and television in our culture; ‘throughout the last ten years at Artangel, we’ve always found that people…often become much more interested and much more co-operative if film or television is involved’, stated Michael Morris, director of Artangel.

Like Goya and Picasso, Deller brings attention to the division between those in power and the common people. He was inspired to commemorate this event after he remembered seeing it in the news and understanding the profound changes it had on British society. He believes that ‘it would not be an exaggeration to say that the strike, like a civil war, had a traumatically divisive effect at all levels of life in the UK…So in all but name it became an ideological and industrial battle between the two sections of British society’.

Deller makes it possible for this event to take place in Orgreave not only once, but twice. By creating new documentation and placing it besides the original documentation, he gives the piece, the memories of the veterans, and the consequences of the conflict, a space to live in. A term he refers to, “living history”, further emphasises the idea that history is not something that is left behind in the past. It is disturbing to think that memories belonging to another time can be re-lived and confronted. According to Alex Farquharson, the Battle of Orgreave was more of a flashback than a re-enactment for many of the participants and viewers. 

Most of Deller’s work is collaborative, meaning that he involves communities and groups of people to create his artwork. As in The Battle of Orgreave, he often deals with social and political themes and makes a point of how art can exist outside of the gallery. In Procession (2009), he conducts a procession celebrating public space and the people that occupy it. In Do Touch (2015), people are connected with their past by being able to touch museum objects placed in their everyday public places. His video English Magic (2013) focuses on events belonging to different times and places in England, ultimately reflecting British society and history. By choosing people as his medium and history as his concept, Deller is able to create very accessible works of art, as is the case with The Battle of Orgeave.

This piece not only deals with past time and history, but with the present, living history. The strike of 1984 and the The Battle of Orgreave of 2001 will both be part of the history of Orgreave. Deller reminds us that even though memories are often forgotten, they can always be re-lived, re-created, and re-written. By achieving a high level of realism and authenticity in The Battle of Orgreave, Deller makes it possible for people, even those unaware of the original conflict, to become emotionally involved and to interact with the past.


Word count: 1041


Bibliography

Artangel. (n.d) The Battle of Orgreave. At: https://www.artangel.org.uk/project/the-battle-of-orgreave (Accessed on 11 January 2017)

Farquharson, A. (2001) ‘The Battle of Orgreave, London, UK’ In: Frieze.com 9 September 2001 [online] At: https://frieze.com/article/jeremy-deller (Accessed on 11 January 2017)

Jeremy Deller (n.d) Jeremy Deller – The Battle of Orgreave, 2001. At: http://jeremydeller.org/TheBattleOfOrgreave/TheBattleOfOrgreave.php (Accessed on 11 January 2017)

Jones, J. (2001) ‘Missiles fly, truncheons swing, police chase miners as cars burn. It’s all very exciting. But why is it art?’ In: The Guardian [online] At: http://www.theguardian.com/culture/2001/jun/19/artsfeatures (Accessed on 11 January 2017)

Wilson, A. (2012) ‘The Battle of Orgreave Archive (An Injury to One is an Injury to All)’ In: Tate.org.uk October 2012 [online] At: www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/deller-the-battle-of-orgreave-archive-an-injury-to-oneis-an-injury-to-all-t12185/text-summary (Accessed on 11 January 2017)

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