Jeremy Deller, Sacrilege, 2012, mixed media, dimensions variable. Installation view.


The British artist Jeremy Deller is well known for his large-scale ambitious works that draw inspiration from social rituals and history. Sacrilege, his first public project in Scotland, will debut at the 2012 Glasgow International Festival of Visual Art on April 20 and will be on view until May 7 on Glasgow Green. The work will then travel to the Olympics in London this summer.

FOR SACRILEGE, I wanted to come up with a way for the public to interact with a very large work, and I also wanted to create something specifically about Stonehenge, and by association our ancestors. I had been thinking about how to do this for a long time and decided it would be best to create an inflatable replica of the prehistoric site. Visitors will be invited to jump and play inside of it.

Stonehenge is actually very big, but it’s hard to tell since it’s been roped off since 1977. You usually can’t get very close to it. I see that restriction as an opportunity. Glasgow Green is also very large. So making this plastic replica at life size—at one hundred and forty feet wide—in public space will give visitors an idea of how big Stonehenge really is. But the point is also for it to be a pleasant experience. The piece has an inflatable floor; otherwise you wouldn’t be able to bounce on it. I’m not going to be bouncing around in it all the time, though.

There are a lot of replicas of Stonehenge around the world, so it’s not unusual to make a replica of it. There’s a very good one in China, actually—at least the picture of it online looks amazing. What I’m doing is nothing new, except the inflatable part maybe. Anyway, Stonehenge is just one of those things that belongs to the world.

We’re still negotiating where it will be located during the Olympics, but for now the plan is for the work to go on a tour of the boroughs of London and around the UK. I’ve always thought that a good deal of public or community art is pompous and has too many lofty aims. I just wanted to make something that could be enjoyed and also be a bit silly. I think we elevate artists too much, to the point where they believe their own hype and think they are truly special and important. In the UK we especially suffer from this.

Sacrilege is playful and cheeky. The title is a way is to ward off any criticism—some will think that it is just that, a sacrilege, so why not call it that? One intended outcome is laughter, perhaps a few tears, and certainly enjoyment, though not necessarily in that order. For me at least it is also a nod to what I would call the “freak out” tendency in UK culture: Hawkwind, Bruce Lacey, and Ken Russell being its best exponents.

— As told to Sherman Sam