Context of Practice Task

Compare and contrast ‘It is what it is’ (2009) by Jeremy Deller and ‘Alison Lapper pregnant’ (2012) by Marc Quinn.

Image‘It is what it is’ (2009), Jeremy Deller

Image‘Alison Lapper pregnant’ (2012), Marc Quinn

It is definitely justified to begin by saying that both of these pieces  are socially-engaging and, in some ways, controversial. Both pieces inspire people to talk, discuss and give their opinions about the meaning and intentions of each piece, as any piece of art should.

‘It is what it is’ is the rusted shell of a blown up car which was destroyed during an attack on a book market in the cultural centre of Baghdad on 5th March, 2007. The wreck is barely recognisable as a car due to it being so severely damaged; it is also not obviously an art installation until you see the sign placed on the side of the trailer which transports the wreckage. The trailer carrying the car is pulled across the United States as part of Jeremy Deller’s project ‘Conversations about Iraq’. Deller and his team take the piece to various community groups, university campuses and other public spaces to highlight the realities of war to those who come and see the car.

‘Alison Lapper pregnant’ began as a small sculpture by Marc Quinn but was recreated for the Opening Ceremony of the 2012 Paralympic Games. In its larger form, it was created as an inflatable structure which was erected in the centre of the Olympic Stadium, surrounded by paralympians and their supporters. In a way, Quinn’s piece alludes to more traditional pieces of art; Lapper was born with shortened legs and no arms meaning the sculpture of her during her pregnancy is missing limbs, just as Greek and Roman statues sometimes have limbs missing today, sometimes accidentally, often intentionally.

Deller’s wreckage looks angry, twisted and contorted which could be a possible link to representing how war can affect things, not only objects but also people. The USA has some of the highest rates of soldiers and ex-soldiers who were maimed and injured in Iraq, and others who were killed in the war. Deller says that he did not want to create an anti-war piece, just a neutral piece that would raise awareness; his main intention was to cause discussion and debate. I am unsure of whether he has created a neutral piece as everything about the installation seems to highlight the horrors and atrocities of war.

It is fairly obvious that Quinn’s piece is a celebration of a woman’s pregnant body, the fact that it is a disabled woman’s body should be a secondary element of the sculpture after femininity and pregnancy and therefore should inspire others with disabilities. Also, Quinn had noticed that there were “no positive representations of disability in the history of public art” and so hoped to change the taboo of disability within art and in general.

Deller’s target audience seems to be anyone in America that is willing to see the piece and discuss their opinions of it and also their views on the Iraq war. This is why he transports his piece around the country, to gain the broadest and most encompassing attitudes towards the war as possible.

The target audience of Quinn’s piece originally was everyone as it featured in very public spaces such as the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square. However, when it was featured within the opening of the Paralympic Games, it may have been aimed at other people with disabilities to inspire them and show their beauty and what they can achieve. Also, the ceremony will have been watched by thousands of people around the world and so would have been intended to show the international audience the inclusiveness of London and England.

The context of ‘It is what it is’ is very controversial. Throughout America, there are ongoing arguments surrounding the Iraq war and America’s involvement. War is always a sensitive topic but taking such a though provoking piece to a country where so many people have an opinion on the war or have been affected directly or indirectly by the war is a daring and brave move. Artistic depictions of war are not always well received but perhaps that is the key element of this piece: its reception. As a main part of the project is the subsequent films made of the discussions surrounding the piece, maybe Deller knew exactly what he was doing by taking such a provocative piece to a country so widely affected by the perils of the war. Showing this piece at different times may also cause more controversy as events unfold every day in Iraq and cause debate to flare up in America.

The context and location of ‘Alison Lapper pregnant’ is perhaps the most interesting part of the piece. This is because it has been shown in numerous places and to various audiences, mostly to positive critical acclaim. However, the element of disability was made to be much more of an issue when the sculpture featured on the Fourth Plinth. Its appearance at the Paralympic Games allowed her disabilities to be overlooked as disability is something that all Paralympians have in common. In the past, society would have been much less accepting or open-minded about a sculpture such as this one because disability itself was accepted much less.

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