The title of this exhibition, Joy in People, could not be more apt. Describing himself as a ‘self taught conceptual artist’, London born artist Jeremy Deller (who won the Turner Prize in 2004) is interested in making things happen, rather than just making things, and his projects nearly always involve collaboration, though rarely with other actual artists. Instead, Deller works with, among others, nature filmmakers, young fans of a pop group, a banner maker and a group of former miners. In one corner, for a piece called ‘Searching for Bez’, his young cousins have made a map of Manchester. In another is a documentary about a glam-rock wrestler called Adrian Street. This is art, just not as you know it, and it can’t fail but lift your spirits. It’s playful and celebrates things we can all relate to: pop music, a street procession, the crazy things you see on a road trip across America, the posters you put on your wall when you are a teenager (you enter the exhibtion by going through a recreation of Deller’s 1993 bedroom, which he in turn used as an art gallery when his parents were away). But Deller is not afraid of more serious and complex subjects either. There is a remarkable room which the artist has turned into a discussion forum about the war in Iraq. A burned out corpse of a car – ‘the conversation piece from hell’ – works as a starting point, and boy does it get you thinking. And there is his fantastic 2001 piece ‘The Battle of Orgreave (An Injury to One is an Injury to All)’ which includes an hour long film both about and recreating a violent conflict of the 1984-5 miners strike. Plus, whatever else you do, make sure you sit down with the 3-D glasses you will be given, and watch ‘Exodus, 2012’, a short film showing millions of bats leaving a Texas cave as dusk descends. It is extraordinary.
PS: Also at the Hayward is the brill David Shrigley exhibition (you can see both shows with the same entrance ticket). Click here to read more on that.