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San Antonio Express-News
By Dan R. Goddard
Jeremy Deller of London made a video of his meetings with remarkable Texans, including a survivor of the Branch Davidian disaster in Waco and the man who makes hamburgers for President Bush in Crawford.
'Texas is twice the size of Britain, and it's on the world stage now because of your president,' Deller said. 'When Bush says 'How's that going to go down with the boys in Lubbock,' it makes people wonder what Texas is really like. Bush seems to have a total lack of shame, and total self-confidence.
'I think most people in England imagine Texas is something like the TV show 'Dallas,' which was a big hit for 10 years on British television. Of course, after traveling around the state for a eight weeks, I can see it's nothing like the TV show.'
Deller named his video 'Memory Bucket' after a store in Helotes. Along with souvenir T-shirts from Crawford and his photographs of Texana, Deller's video is showing through Jan. 29 at ArtPace.
Trained as an art historian, Deller said he has a much different agenda than most artists. He's worked on several projects that combine social activism with popular culture. His 1997 project, 'The Uses of Literacy,' merged the English miner's strike of 1984-85 with the advent of acid house music in a band and CD called Acid Brass.
With the collaboration of art historian Alan Kane, he has put together an online 'Folk Archive' of rural British folk art that can be viewed at www.folkarchive.co.uk. His interest in folk art reflects his fascination with things people make or do outside a traditional art context, such as parades and fairs.
For his 'Memory Bucket' video, Deller traveled all over the state, shooting more than 10 hours of film that he has edited down to about 28 minutes.
'One thing that struck me about Texas is how poor it is as a state compared to what you see on 'Dallas',' Deller said. 'It's much more urbanized and liberal than I expected. Of course, San Antonio has the whole Hispanic influence. The religion thing is much more up front than in Britain. Driving through these small Texas towns, it's the churches that stand out.'
Besides his images from Waco and Crawford, Deller filmed the president's recent visit to San Antonio and talked to some of the antiwar protestors who gathered downtown. He interviewed a Quaker woman, who thoughtfully outlined all her objections to the war in Iraq.
'In Britain, we assume that a Texan is a certain kind of person, but it's an incredibly cosmopolitan state. To me, the variety of the state reminds me of California. We have this romantic notion of cowboys, but that's not Texas at all anymore.'
Like most artist's videos, Deller's eschews traditional narrative or documentary forms. The ending shows thousands and thousands of bats as they leave their cave at sunset, flying just inches over Deller's head as he filmed and recorded the natural ritual that most Texans take for granted.
'I think people forget how old the history of Texas is and that these bats have been doing this for thousands of years,' Deller said. 'I'm interested in all these things that happen on the fringes, just outside the spotlight. The demonstration in Texas has nothing to do with the bats emerging from the cave — it just shows the tremendous variety of things going on in Texas.'
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