Jeremy Deller's subjects differ from other motifs in the canon of poster images mainly because they do not represent. They have an everyday, familiar and accessible atmosphere. Private rooms, the street, music clubs, commonplace locations which can only be pinned down geographically by deciphering details. These are scenes which could be found in any of the 20 European cities in which the poster work "Quotes" can be seen. It is appearing at 2,000 locations in Vienna and a further 500 in European cities such as Lisbon, Warsaw and Athens.
Seven images which at first glance do not make up a conclusive series. People can be seen in some of them – a young girl, dancers, a sportsman, cyclist. These are not, however, the usual governors of our (consumer) dreams, and this is again where Deller operates contrary to normal advertising strategies. It is much more as if the observer is put in the position of someone who is not in the picture but is actually playing the main part. The individual as the missing piece, seven stages of a one-day journey into the night which appear to align themselves around an absent subject. He or she is working, travelling, dreaming, going out, looking. Media images and direct experience become entwined. The group of cyclists at a demonstration, the marathon runner in front of the big wheel – seen during a walk through the city or while channel hopping? Both are possible and it does not make a big difference.
The individual as the protagonist of a story from the late nineties, somewhere in the industrialised world, where everything is not so rosy that one does not need consolation and something to take one's mind off things. Particularly if one is young – and everything points to the fact that Deller has punched out the pieces of his fragmentary bio-jigsaw from the pages of a young life.
In this life one must set oneself up, and light furniture is most practical. Tables are made with trestles, posters put up with sellotape. What is wanted is light luggage and portable possessions which can be easily replaced when circumstances change. Preferences change and so do convictions. Post-modernism has taught us that in order to remain flexible it helps to borrow our likes and convictions on a temporary basis instead of formulating them ourselves. This makes it easier to leave them behind without shedding our lifeblood. Quotes are the best luggage of on the march from one temporary location to the next.
In contrast there is the quotation as a cultural heritage of eternal truths which are considered to be for nothing less than the rest of our lives, as handed out at school. Schiller, Goethe, Musil, Shakespeare, Matthias Claudius, Emanuel Swedenborg. Deller supplements the succinct images with quotes from writers and philosophers, the intellectual elite of the Western world one could say. Except – the quotations are not wise sayings. Shakespeare's quote from Hamlet, "To thine own self be true", could perhaps be seen as a noble motto. However, the other sentences and sentence fragments are of a kind which are easily said and which could be imagined to be accompanied by a simple melody. Phrases from a moment of happiness, even of euphoria, but also of weariness. Phrases for life as it now happens to be. Deller's artistic method is re-contextualisation. Schiller and Goethe are exhumed and find themselves in the repertoire of a young person who quotes a Boyzone number in the same breath. Deller is without respect, witty, unpredictable and refreshing and completely serious in examining the present. The past is not dead, it is not even past. Do you know the sentence? Also a quote. When looking at pop music Deller is interested in the phenomenon of the fan. "Quotes" is about a young fan of old masters. A contradiction? Certainly a remix. Good art moves the boundaries of cultural territory. Why not knock out a phrase from Musil when it's a good one-liner?
At the beginning of "Quotes" Deller lets an English brass band play Acid House on the Vienna Rathausplatz – "Acid Brass". Another kind of re-contextualisation. Deller makes art from his knowledge of youth culture. A lot of people are doing that today. However, he makes these elements coincide with elements of working-class and middle-class culture. The contemporary artist in a noble role – as mediator between social and generations within a European culture which appears to be so homogeneous.