WILTSHIRE BEFORE CHRIST
Aries, Jeremy Deller and David Sims
The project Wiltshire Before Christ stems from the collaboration between the artist Jeremy Deller, the streetwear brand Aries and the fashion photographer David Sims, who worked to create an exhibition of a capsule collection of clothes and a book, starting with the many suggestions offered by the most famous and mysterious prehistoric site in the world: Stonehenge, in Wiltshire, UK, the oldest part of which dates back to 3.000 BC.
Having entered the collective imagination and become a mass tourism destination, Stonehenge is a founding place for British identity and culture. This is why it has already been the subject of a work by Jeremy Deller, an artist highly interested in themes regarding popular culture, manifestations of folklore and mass culture. Indeed, in 2012 Deller created Sacrilege, an installation that reproduced the archaeological site on a 1:1 scale in the form of inflatable structures where children could play, turning it into an attraction worthy of Luna Park.
With Wiltshire Before Christ Deller instead restores magic and mystery to the enormous stones of Stonehenge, investigating, through reference to a more remote ancient symbol, the pull exerted on humans over thousands of years by the themes of mysticism and pagan symbolism, and the profoundness of concepts of identity, time and place, but still managing to mix them up with pop culture.
“Stonehenge could be the greatest logo or trademark in the whole world. The silhouette is so recognisable — it probably has more recognition than almost anything in Britain short of the Queen,” claims the artist.
In addition to producing a video and installations, Deller, inspired by Sofia Prantera – the creative mind of the Aries brand - also took on the production of objects and items of clothing inspired by the archaeology, presented in the exhibition as relics of a distant past, creating a short circuit between eras and languages. The shots by David Sims, which see Stonehenge and Avebury as the set of a fashion shoot, reproduced in the exhibition on large lightboxes, further blur the boundaries between the past and the present. “It’s an unusual exhibition,” says Deller, “I almost worked as a set designer, it was more a question of creating an atmosphere... and it was essentially a collective work, with Sofia and David.”
Through an immersive exhibition path that sees different artistic and creative approaches repeatedly encroaching on each other, Wiltshire Before Christ combines art, photography and fashion in an innovative project, which is complex to define and beyond the realms of what is normally presented in a museum institute, mixing up presumed cultural hierarchies.
Photo by Ela Bialkowska _ OKNO Studio