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Language and creativity
Language and creativity

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5 Jeremy Deller: Juxtaposing genres

Having discussed different ways in which language is used in art, let us now concentrate on the work of one particular artist in order to examine in more detail some of these issues. The example I wish to focus on is the work of the British artists Jeremy Deller.

Deller has described his work as being a form of ‘social surrealism’, a way of foregrounding ‘how strange [the] everyday can be, and amazing, weird and odd’ (Deller, 2012). This term plays on the notion of ‘social realism’: the art movement highlighting and critiquing the everyday social conditions of the ordinary working person. Although Deller is not referencing it directly, it also parallels a movement from the USA in the 1930s, which drew on European surrealist techniques that were current at the time and applied them to social commentary and critique (Fort, 1982).

A technique that was favoured by artists in this earlier social surrealist movement was the juxtapositioning of incongruous images, something which Deller himself practices: ‘that is what art is often about … juxtaposition disrupting reality’ (Deller, 2012). Again, as we shall see, the contextual lens is key to our understanding and appreciation of the work, as much of its meaning and impact comes from the way it interacts with the context in which it is positioned.