"With Folk Archive, we are treading a path between being artists and being anthropologists. As artists we engage in an optimistic journey of personal discovery (albeit often close to home). As anthropologists, we hope we are describing something overlooked and worthy of attention.” Jeremy Deller and Alan Kane
About Folk Archive
The selection of works shown here are drawn from Folk Archive assembled by Jeremy Deller and Alan Kane between 1998 and 2005 in response to the question what might constitute present day folk art.
Just as art practice has evolved with the advent of social, cultural and technological changes so too has folk art and the archive takes into account performance and action, video and installation.
By the artists’ own admission they made no attempt to define popular art and decided to avoid what is most often referred to as ‘outsider art’, preferring to concentrate on a personal selection of things that conveyed their enjoyment of the range and depth of creativity they encountered.
They looked for works that had attributes including humour, modernity, insight, a unique voice or perspective, motifs they recognised and ones they did not, attempts to tackle ambitious subjects, endeavours beyond normal expectation, pathos or just something extra. The one aspect common to all the works is that they have been authored by individuals who would perhaps not primarily consider themselves artists.
Latika Gupta, Curator, Folk Archive
The World Gurning Championship occurs once a year in the Town of Egremont in Cumbria.
It has been happening for possibly more than 500 years. The winner of the competition makes himself or herself look as ugly as possible without using their hands.
The derivation of the competition is unclear but might relate to imitating the village idiot or the face pulled when biting into a crab apple.
Cumberland and Westmoreland wrestling costumes. Courtesy: Tom Harrington MBE
These costumes are often embroidered and the designs are usually, but not exclusively, associated with nature.
Prizes are given for the best examples and are not merely decorative as they are often worn during the wrestling bouts themselves.
During the Ferry Fair held each August in South Queensferry, Scotland, one of the local residents applies to the council for the honour of being that year’s Burry Man. The successful applicant dresses up in full body costume made up of flannel. This costume is then completely covered with the hooked fruits of Britain’s two native Burdock plants. Whoever plays the part of the Burry Man must collect these ‘burrs’ along with other flowers and ferns to ornament his costume.
The Mari Lwyd is a decorated horse’s skull that tours pubs and villages in Wales between Christmas and New Year. Songs are sung to entertain the public and the horse often is given license to misbehave. Originally, it is thought it was a way to make a little bit of money in a very tough time of year for agricultural workers.
Fathers 4 Justice was an organisation that drew attention to fathers’ rights for custody and access to children for estranged fathers. They were adept at political stunts and media grabbing events, which often involved illegal activity. Every Christmas they would march through London, many holding photos of their children who they had not seen for years.
Coronation Street by Len Dobson
This is the UK's longest running TV soap opera. Peter Adamson was a British stage and television actor, who is best known for playing the character of Len Fairclough in the long-running television series Coronation Street from 1961 to 1983. He made a replica of the street it is set on when he retired. Adamson has since made many models of fictitious and actual buildings.
Artworks - Alan Kane & Jeremy Deller
Curator - Latika Gupta
Essay - Michael Bracewell
Digital Exhibition - Debesh Banerjee and Ribhu Chadha
Special Thanks - Gill Caldicott, Vivek Mansukhani and Priya Khanchandani