We spoke to Turner prize-winning artist Jeremy Deller about the first world war memorial that captured the Nation's attention in 2016.
If you were anywhere near social media on the 1st of July 2016, even for the briefest of moments, you will have witnessed the photos and videos being shared all around Britain. From London to Glasgow, in Bristol Temple Meads and Manchester Piccadilly, 1,500 soldiers appeared in train stations, shopping centres, outside schools and all manner of everyday places.
This was the key to Deller's idea, “to make something that had not happened before, I just wanted it to be experienced.” The everydayness of #WeAreHere was the foundations of its impact, avoiding the sentimentality that may be attached to war memorials or heritage sites. According to Deller, arts based communications have to have this element of unexpectedness or unpredictability.
The notion of taking a memorial to the people and not taking people to a memorial, “a place the public went to be sad”, was how he managed to give #WeAreHere an unexpected twist. Deller conceived a very modern memorial. It was not something engraved in stone, he gave it a heartbeat, he gave it a face. Something people could connect with on a personal level.
By making that kind of experience, Deller and his army of volunteers managed to connect a 21st century audience with a historic event that they are two or three generations removed from. When we asked Deller what he feels the greatest accolade for his work could be, he simply replied that he hopes “participants are happy at the end of it.” With emphasis on the participants.
Well, they tweeted it, they streamed it, they instagrammed it. And they absolutely felt it. Because they were allowed to be a part of it. That's what we call People Activation.
Header image source: https://becausewearehere.co.uk/