Battle of Orgreave Jeremy Deller

Place: Gdańsk City Gallery 2, Powroźnicza street 13/15
Opening: 10th of October, 7:30 P.M.
Exhibion: 10th of October - 30th of December 2017
Artist: Jeremy Deller
Patrycja Ryłko

Jeremy Deller’s work The Battle of Orgreave is an artistic repetition of the clash between striking miners and the police that took place during the 1984-1985 miners’ strikes. The re-enactment took place on 17 June 2001 in the town of Orgreave in South Yorkshire. The exhibition presents the re-enactment in its entirety, as well as in the form of its prolific manifestations: a broadcast television documentary directed by Mike Figgis and co-produced by Artangel and Channel 4, the book The English Civil War Part II, Personal accounts of the 1984-85 miners’ strike and various evidence of artistic research.

On the 18th of June 1984, almost five-thousand picketers protested outside British Steel’s coking plant in Orgreave against a rapid series of mine closures introduced by the Thatcherite government in the name of the allegedly beneficial privatisation of the public sector, which was actually to the benefit of the corporate capitalist class. The pickets, orchestrated by the leader of the National Union of Mineworkers, Arthur Scargill, were forcefully confronted by almost eight-thousand policemen, including cavalry. Undoubtedly‚ The Battle of Orgreave’ constitutes the most violent event in the history of Thatcher’s Tory government in the 1980s and the industrial workers’ struggles against free market forces.

The Battle of Orgreave presented in the city of Gdansk performs new meanings. One frame of reference relates to the fact that Gdansk is the city of Solidarity – the labour union associated with the Catholic Church, which emerged in 1980 in the Lenin Shipyards under the leadership of Lech Wałęsa, and which initiated civil anti-Soviet Polish resistance, strikes and pickets resulting in the fall of Communism. Another binding framework relates it to the current socio-political situation in Poland and especially to the difficult situation of Ukrainian workers, the stormy waves of populism that sweep across all continents legitimised by the eruption of fake news, popularising xenophobia and the anti-immigrant policy. Last but not least, the new context relates to the absolute unknown of the spectre of Brexit in Britain.

The exhibition is accompanied by a programme of educational activities and a publication devoted to the problems of the working class and strikes in defence of democracy.