Explosion As Art


Ben Street reviews a new Jeremy Deller display at the Imperial War Museum, London. It features a burnt-out car, mangled in an an explosion in Baghdad in 2007:

It’s not an “installation,” it hasn’t been “curated,” and it’s not (according to the artist himself), even an “artwork.” It’s not, in other words, “by” someone, and what it’s about is, in part, the idea of authorship, and the meaning of authorship in a context of modern warfare. Deller’s disavowal of the word “art” to describe the car – which does have a title (5 March 2007), and was displayed in Deller’s show It Is What It Is at the New Museum, New York, last year, so has all the hallmarks of being a work of art – has parallels with the perhaps apocryphal story of the Gestapo officer stalking through Picasso’s studio, chancing across a postcard of Guernica, and asking the artist “Did you do that?” “No,” replies the artist, “you did.”