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Language and creativity
Language and creativity

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5.1 Juxtaposing genres: Example 1

One of the ways in which Deller uses juxtaposition to disrupt reality, especially in his early work, is by merging two forms of communicative genre: placing the content of one within the form of another, to create playful but provocative social imaginings. Figure 6, for example, takes the form of a poster for an imaginary literary event at the British Museum dedicated to the work of the former frontman of The Smiths, Morrissey. By bringing two cultural worlds together – the high culture of the literary event and the popular culture of popular music – Deller highlights the relative value given to the two in society and the arbitrariness of how different cultural projects are framed by different discourses.

Described image
Figure 6 Jeremy Deller, Morrissey: A Life In Words, 1995 (scan from p. 47 of Joy in People catalogue)

As a side note, at the time of creating the work, back in the mid 1990s, the incongruity encoded in the poster would have been more marked than it is now. In the intervening years this incongruity has lessened to the point where Morrissey’s autobiography was (albeit with a certain knowing irony) published as a Penguin Classic in 2013, alongside canonical figures such as Flaubert, Dostoyevsky and Wilde. As Deller says, ‘Exhibitions like this [i.e. dedicated to the work of Morrissey] are actually being staged now, but at the time it was just absurd to think they would ever happen’ (Deller, cited in Rugoff et al., 2012, p. 44).