Great Britain

Time to Ruffle a Few Feathers?

Jeremy Deller’s selection for the British Pavilion is intriguing. As David Cameron’s Conservative party unconvincingly exhorts the benefits of “The Big Society” (read Thatcherite withdrawal of the welfare state 2.0), a heady mix of nationalism is also coming to the boil. The UK Independence Party recently averaged 25% of the vote in local elections, pushing conservatives further to the right with calls for an in-out EU referendum before 2015, whilst the Scottish independence referendum looms in 2014.
In this light, the choice of Deller could allow for some overdue national self-reflection (noticeably absent in previous British Pavilions).

His selection by the British Council Venice Biennale Selection Committee – which is mainly comprised of curators and public museum directors – could also be tinged with misplaced nostalgia. Deller’s rise over the past ten years is aligned closely with Tony Blair’s New Labour and a cultural policy of looking to the arts to heal social wounds, through increased funding for large-scale, participatory commissions. Projects such as Deller’s Battle of Orgreaves (2001) and Procession (2009) received healthy funding form the Arts Council England, whose government subsidy rose steadily during the Blair years before being slashed by 30% in 2010 as part of austerity measures introduced by Cameron et al.

Equally, Deller’s films, installations and performances, which won him the Turner Prize in 2004 – though often accused of delivering a political light touch – did signal a new form of mainstream art practice in Britain, more socially and historically aware, and opposed to the individualism and entrepreneurship of the preceding YBA movement, the cultural spawn of the Thatcher years (two of whom have previously occupied the British Pavilion).

In the year of Thatcher’s death and with questions of national identity and sovereignty dominating British politics, the arts in the UK has also – somewhat reluctantly – had to adapt to the cultural policies of the coalition government. Could Deller’s selection by the establishment be regarded as a call for some much-needed ideological and artistic stock taking?



The British Council
Jeremy Deller
Emma Gifford-Mead
Budget provided by the state:
£ 250.000 (€ 292,008)
Selection procedure:
Jury selection of the artist


Emma Gifford-Mead
No. of participations in the venice biennale:


Jeremy Deller
The United Kingdom, 1966
Lives and works in:
The United Kingdom
No. of participations in the venice biennale:
Represented by galleries in:
Glasgow, New York and Paris

Politics & Economics

State System:
Unitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy
Ruling Political Party:
Coalition government of Conservatives and Liberal Democrats.
Population (World Bank, 2011):
GDP per capita (World Bank, 2011):
Unemployment (World Bank, 2011):
7.8% of the labor force
Net OECD ODA Aid Donated (2011):
Military Expenditure (SIPRI, 2011):


Coalition of the Willing
International Criminal Court recognized


Country independent since:
1927 (Royal and Parliamentary Titles Act establishes the current name of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland)
Last Major Border Revision:
1922 (secession of the Irish Free States)
Colonial History:
Former colonial power
Former Colonies:
Australia, New-Zealand, Hongkong, Singapore, Malesia, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, South-Africa, Egypt, Sudan, Ghana, Kenya, Uganda, Somalia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Lesotho, Swaziland, Sierra Leone, Gambia, British-west-India, Belize, British-Guinea, Falkland Islands, Canada, Helgoland, Cyprus. Currently, the UK holds several overseas territories including Gibraltar.
International Court of Justice cases:
Global Militarization Index (BICC, 2011):
Nuclear Force?
Ongoing Conflicts and Disputes:
The United Kingdom is one of the closest allies of the USA in the War on Terror and currently supports the missions in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Participation in Multinational Missons:
NATO missions in Afghanistan and Kosovo. UN peacekeeping missions in Congo, Cyprus and Sudan. EU mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina.