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Language and creativity
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5.3 Juxtaposing genres: Example 3

The final example of juxtaposing genres, Figure 8, is in the form of a calling card or invitation which was traditionally used as part of the ritual when the aristocracy visited one another. However, the card purports to be from a group of football hooligans – rather than from members of the aristocracy – thus producing a clash of social cultures (while also possibly referencing the fact that football ‘firms’ in the 1980s often did leave ‘calling cards’ with their victims). Deller sent these cards out to 50 teenage peers selected from Debrett’s Peerage & Baronetage. As Rugoff writes, ‘More than clever gags, these works succinctly (and humorously) rais[e] questions about how different groups in society stage their allegiances and declare their status’ (Rugoff et al., 2012, p. 10).

Described image
Figure 8 Jeremy Deller, Open Bedroom, 1993, The Chelsea Smilers mail-out, installed in the Deller family home (scan from p. 10 of Joy in People catalogue)

Fundamental to the way all these works operate is that domains have particular discourse and text genres, which are composed of elements such as text organisation, font, colour, etc. The conventions associated with communication in these genres cue us into expectations about the meaning and function of the texts; however, by putting a particular type of message into an unfamiliar genre of presentation, Deller brings about an unsettling, or at least thought-provoking, effect. This is, in a sense, a form of defamiliarisation, making the familiar unfamiliar pushing us to see the world around us afresh. All these imagine a different social reality and in this way make us re-evaluate (or see afresh) the social reality we do live in.