Jeremy Deller’s ‘Battle of Orgreave’

Film screening and open discussion
Lecture Theatre
Chelsea College of Arts
5:15pm, Wednesday 5 March 2014

As part of the CCW Graduate School Public Programme, David Cross and Sarah Wishart will screen ‘The Battle of Orgreave’, and host an open discussion of its relevance to questions at the intersection of politics, ethics and aesthetics today.

Thirty years ago, the UK National Union of Mineworkers began a strike that lasted for over a year, and was the most bitterly fought since the General Strike of 1926. The Battle of Orgreave in 1984 was an historic clash between miners and the police, which marked a turning point for the strike, for the trade union movement and for Britain’s energy supply. In 2001 the artist Jeremy Deller staged a re-enactment of the battle, which was performed in Orgreave by historical re-enactment societies, and included police and miners who had been part of the original conflict. Deller’s participatory art event was commissioned by Artangel and filmed by Mike Figgis for Channel 4.

A socio-economic response might trace the shift in Britain from industrial production to cultural production, and link this to the decline of organized labour and the rise of precarious work. A cultural approach could explore the relationship between events and the way that they are ‘framed’ or represented in journalism, history and art, while also acknowledging its own position in a society where class difference and economic injustice are increasing. When we situate all this within an understanding of ecological limits, we become engulfed in paradox: consumer society depends on energy from burning coal; coal burning destroys the climate on which our survival depends. So we must realize the transition to a ‘zero carbon society’. But if we are to achieve this by free will, rather than by force of arms, there may be instrumental value in a self-reflexive tendency and openness to contingency. Are these to be found in The Battle of Orgreave?

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