Ossian Ward: Jeremy Deller takes aim at the establishment

A cup of tea on the veranda might sound terribly British but Jeremy Deller's Pavilion, “English Magic”, is more of a controversial political minefield than it is a quaint pit-stop. Revisiting his familiar cultural reference points of outsider art, moments of historical upheaval and more lighthearted musical interludes, his show chimes neatly with some of the wider themes of Massimiliano Gioni's Biennale, while also taking the whole event to task in his strange depiction of William Morris (a typically socially-engaged Deller hero) who has returned from the grave to cast Roman Abramovich's ostentatious yacht into the depths of the lagoon, like some crazed Godzilla.

We Sit Starving Amidst Our Gold, 2013, in Jeremy Deller's British Pavilion

Deller has also enacted a long-held goal to crush a couple of Range Rovers (more symbols of needless excess and establishment), the crumpled remains of one of which visitors sit on to watch his video piece Ooh-oo-hoo ah-ha yeah, 2013, summing up the many and varied themes of the transformative pavilion with the driving soundtrack of a steel band, also performing live for the opening day. More political heat comes in the drawings made by UK prisoners who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, depicting war's casualties in a different light, from soldiers smoking crack cocaine to portraits of Dr David Kelly, the UN weapons inspector who committed suicide after the WMD scandal. Whichever way you look at it, or however strong you take your tea, it is a heady brew indeed.

Ooh-oo-hoo ah-ha yeah, 2013

Ossian Ward is the former art editor for Time Out magazine

Published Thu, 30 May 2013 13:11:00 GMT

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