In 1984, artist Jeremy Deller watched the bloody clash between miners and police at the Orgreave coking plant in South Yorkshire, UK, on national television. With the opinion that the miners were presented in contemporary media as more violent than they had actually been, Deller wanted to find out what exactly had happened that day. After undertaking three years of empirical research, Deller organized a traditional reenactment event on June 17th, 2001, enlisting veteran miners who had fought in the 1984 Battle of Orgreave as actors. Director Mike Figgis filmed the event. Deller later published a book with a recording and created an archive installation of his Orgreave project.
This thesis discusses how ethnographic methodologies and reenactment practices are appropriated in Jeremy Deller’s The Battle of Orgreave, which aims to investigate a key site of historical and cultural memory. The following set of questions have guided my research:In what way do the strategies deployed in Jeremy Deller’s artistic project differ from ethnographic methodologies? Does Deller’s project veer on the side of political activism rather than an ethnographic presentation? In what ways do artistic historical reenactments draw on and differ from the folk tradition of historical reenactments? What happens when historical and cultural memory is reenacted as an art project? How are ethnographic methodologies and reenactment practices deployed and/or presented in Mike Figgis’s film and Jeremy Deller’s book and archive?