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Press release

  • 7 December 2004
  • Turner prize winner's tribute to Sussex professor

    Turner prize winner and Sussex art history postgraduate Jeremy Deller. Photographer: Hainsley Brown

    Turner prize winner and Sussex art history postgraduate Jeremy Deller. Photographer: Hainsley Brown

    Turner prize winner Jeremy Deller has paid tribute to the University of Sussex tutor who inspired him during his studies.

    Art historian and curator Professor David Alan Mellor supervised Deller when he studied for an MA in British art history and critical theory in 1992. Speaking to the University of Sussex after receiving the £25,000 prize at a glittering ceremony at London's Tate Britain on December 6, Deller said: "David was the reason I came to Sussex. I heard a lecture he gave. I like the way he looks at culture and connects disparate subjects. We share a lot of interests, particularly sub-cultures."

    Deller, 38, wrote his MA thesis on Teddy Boy culture under the supervision of Professor Mellor, whose research interests include aspects of 20th-century art, photography and film in the context of broader cultural history.

    Deller won the judges' vote with a film, Texas Memory Bucket, a journey through the American state that is home to George W. Bush, more than a year before his re-election. It featured, among other subjects, the President's favourite burger bar waitress and a cast of three million bats.

    His work encompasses cultural history, art, politics, film, photography and music - an interdisciplinary, contemporary approach that Professor Mellor believes sums up the Sussex experience of study and research. He said: "I was very moved and delighted to see Jeremy win. He has a natural modesty and a commitment to humane representations. The important thing about his work is the humanity in it. I like to think that at Sussex he developed his interest in community and in showing it in all its diversity."

    Deller is best known for his "living history" project, The Battle of Orgreave, a collaborative re-enactment of the infamous 1984 miners' strike clash, using 800 extras to play the parts of miners and police, filmed by Hollywood director Mike Figgis. It took three years to realise and produced a film, a book and a recording. Other projects have included Acid Brass, a concert of 1980s Acid House anthems played by a brass band, which resulted in a CD.

    Future work may even involve collaboration with Sussex, which is home to the Mass-Observation Archive, a rich source of social history, based on diaries and letters written by ordinary people that span the past 70 years. Professor Mellor believes that the Mass-Obs archive is a valuable source of artistic inspiration, while Jeremy Deller said: "The Mass-Obs archive certainly involves a lot of the things that interest me, so you never know..."

    The other shortlisted Turner prize artists were: Kutlug Ataman, Langlands and Bell, and Yinka Shonibare. All the finalists' works feature in an exhibition at Tate Britain in London. Previous winners of the accolade, now in its 20th year, have included Damien Hirst, Gilbert and George and last year's recipient, Grayson Perry.


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