Jeremy Deller : I was approached by the director of the Palais de Tokyo a few years back but I didn’t really think about it seriously until last year. You do have artistic freedom more or less but I think the major curtailment on the artist is the budget.
At the Palais de Tokyo you show the Folk Archive which is a collection of objects and photographs from the British folk culture. Can such an archive travel and be understood in another country such as France?
JD : Yes of course it can be appreciated. It’s like saying "can Delacroix be understood by the English?" Because something is very English/French whatever doesn’t mean it does not translate, this is a different language to the written word. The Folk Archive already travelled to Serbia and Switzerland and people enjoyed it and found it very entertaining. There is a universal element to it, you don’t need a translation. And some things in the archive are unusual for English people as well.
Why did you decide to show the Folk Archive in Paris?
JD : Well, for practical reasons it is a big ready made exhibition that could at least begin to fill the huge space that is the Palais de Tokyo, so it seemed natural to do. It is also interesting to show a very British thing outside of the Motherland as it were.
This Folk Archive is different from the one you exhibited in 2005 at the Barbican in London?
JD : The display is the same, the order might change a little. The version for Paris is an expanded version, there is six shows in total. Ed Hall, a banner maker, is getting his own retrospective of banners made in the last twenty five-years. Most banners are for trade unions and pressure groups and in some respects tell a story about social history of the last twenty years. There is an exhibition on the French rock scene and the story of Golf-Drouot, a Parisian night club from the early sixties late fifties, another one about the industrial revolution in Britain and its relationship to pop music and also a show about early electronic music in Russia.
The Folk Archive is often described as objects made by amateurs, not by artists. Does the status of these objects matter to you?
JD : I’m not interested in getting into authorship, amateur, folk, etc arguments. That’s probably because I didn’t go to any art school, for me the rules for being an artist did not exist. I think there is a massive snobbery about art and who is and who isn’t an artist. For example, State Britain by Mark Wallinger was restaged as an artwork but the critics loved it. But if for example they had the original object in Tate, a lot of those critics wouldn’t have liked it. That’s the kind of snobbery you’re against when you’re showing the Folk Archive and you’re actually showing the original thing, you’re not showing an artist’s interpretation of it.