Initial Five Words
- How selective are the pieces?
- Is this a balanced view?
- Why are some things on the wall and some in cabinets?
The archive is a selection of items that all seem related to the union-police conflict during a time of protest. There are photos, texts, documents, videos and artwork. On closer inspection, they are all related to the miner strikes of 1984. Upon reading the information on the Tate website, the materials are actually split into two rooms. There is a mix of items from the original event and Deller’s reenactment in 2001.
Some specific items of interest include a denim jacket studded with union enamel badges, a police riot shield, original newspapers, graffiti photos, timelines, books, video of the events, vinyl map of Britain.
The slogan – “An injury to one is an injury to all” is from the Industrial Workers of the World and is a humanist appeal for solidarity.
Context and Interpretation
Name – Jeremy Deller
Nationality – English
Title of Work – The Battle of Orgreaves Archive
Date of Completion – 2001
Medium – archive of many types of item
Where can it be found – Not currently on display
The slogan underlines the message of the work. For Deller, the events at Orgreave resembled the events of the civil war, medieval and brutal. Deller has explained how the memory of seeing the original news reports as an eighteen-year-old affected him and led him later to engage with the social divisions created by the events surrounding the miners’ strike:
For Deller, the specific historical event that unfolded at Orgreave represented the destruction of mining communities as well as the wider social fabric of the working class during the Thatcher government.
The 2001 reconstruction took place in Orgreave on 17 June, and its cast and expertise were drawn from more than twenty historical re-enactment societies under the direction of the re-enactment tactician Howard Giles, along with veterans of the original conflict drawn from both sides of the battle lines. However, while re-enactments usually serve to investigate what might have happened, or to offer a re-interpretation, even a corrective, to history, Deller’s intention was, as the curator Ralph Rugoff explains, ‘to openly acknowledge that any history is inevitably impure, highly mediated, and in need of being re-written’.
For this work, as with most of his projects, Deller interacted and engaged with different social groups or communities to produce artwork that can take many forms. Some of his other projects have been realised in the form of an exhibition, a march, a book, an installation, a discussion, a road trip or a convention. Instead of making objects, Deller is an artist who curates the unfolding of situations between groups of people.
I find this piece by Deller along with the reenactment footage to be incredibly powerful. The miner strikes are something I live through too, growing up in the 80s in Yorkshire and my family were heavily involved in them. It feels even more important in the current climate to look back at these times as we seem to be entering another period of civil unrest with multiple strikes planned this summer. The world has just come out of chaos with the pandemic and it seems more than ever we need to band together, but the opposite is happening. Pieces like this by Deller make us reflect on times gone by when there were huge conflicts and by comparing it to the English civil war he makes us think even more about if we ever really learn anything from history>