Caught by the River

Sacrilege in the Capital

1st August 2012

“I told the web designer to make the site look as though Hawkwind had designed it..” Clicking on the URL, it looks like that might have been successfully achieved. Put it this way – if the website in question was a person, it would be lurching towards you in the Healing Fields sometime before dawn – all wild and wide eyed – clutching bounteous supplies of dried mushrooms and a half drunk flagon of psychedelic scrumpy.

The artist behind the website is Jeremy Deller; the Silver Machine-esque visuals offer a route map and soundtrack for his touring Olympic art project, Sacrilege. You’ve probably seen pictures of it – a life-sized, inflatable bouncy castle replica of Stonehenge – an uber-kosmiche art project for the young and young at heart.

When I interviewed Jeremy about the project in a north London caff a couple of months back, his Hayward show was still packing them in and he’d just been confirmed as the British representative for the 2013 Venice Biennale. He was remarkably unfazed by the kind of workload that would flatten most people; such is his puckish enthusiasm. He told me he wanted to get Julian Cope or Hawkwind themselves playing alongside the work, creating a kind of rolling, blow up free festival that could be enjoyed by wild-eyed hippies as much as by shoeless five year olds.

I asked Jeremy where the idea originally came from:

“I’ve wanted to make a bouncy structure for some time. The idea was to make versions of buildings or spaces that for whatever reason were inaccessible to the British public. A Royal palace, GCHC, the Menwith Hills which are those huge RAF listening stations out on the Yorkshire Moors near Harrogate. They help provide intelligence support for the States. Stonehenge was somewhere that always figured as part of that plan. The idea was always to do it life-sized as you don’t truly get an impression of the scale unless you stand amongst them. They are massive. If you’re experiencing them whilst walking around the perimeter, you just can’t work out the enormity of it. Lots of the stones are as big as houses.

“The level of human activity it must have taken to get those stones to that place is awe-inspiring. Some of the stones were shifted from west Wales. It’s difficult these days for people to organize a night out without relying on mobile phones; can you imagine trying to cart solid stone blocks hundreds of miles across a road-less Britain? What motivated those people? It must have been something incredible strong in them to do it. Seeing tiny children amongst the stones bouncing around, it adds such an incredible comedy value. I have a complicated relationship with the subject matter. I’m not taking the piss out of them. I think – and hope – that this is simply another way of getting to know them

“The stones themselves have been off-limits for over thirty years. They were roped off in 1977. Before that, you would have been able to park in a field nearby and wander over. Nowadays though, they are very heavily policed. There’s people on the site the whole time making sure no one gets on. It’s symbolic of the fact that as a generation, we clearly can’t be trusted anymore.”

So we can’t be trusted anymore? Sounds like a call to arms. Let’s get bouncing.


Sacrilege is currently touring London – it hits Hampstead Heath today.