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Jeremy Deller and Grizedale Arts collaborate on British representation at San Paulo Bienal

  • Date: 15 December 2010
  • Area: North
Male wrestler leaning against sink in bathroom

Film still from So Many Ways to Hurt You, the Life and Times of Adrian Street, Jeremy Deller.

A thought-provoking installation produced through a collaboration between Turner-winning artist Jeremy Deller and Cumbrian-based Grizedale Arts has recently been shown at the Sao Paulo Bienal in Brazil.

So Many Ways to Hurt You, the Life and Times of Adrian Street, a new film by Jeremy Deller, tells the extraordinary story of the British wrestler Adrian Street who left behind a life of coal mining to become a glam rock wrestling superstar.

It was shown along with Arts Council England regularly funded organisation Grizedale Arts' recreation of a 19th century Mechanics Institute for an installation which forms part of the British representation at the 29th Sao Paulo Bienal, one of the world's largest and most prestigious art exhibitions, with a visiting audience of over one million people. The 29th Bienal ran from 25 September to 12 December 2010.

Adrian Street was born into a coal mining family in Wales in 1940. As a teenager he was fascinated by bodybuilding but was ridiculed in his community and abused in the mine, where his interest was seen as effeminate rather than macho. He fled to London in the 1956 to pursue a career as a professional wrestler. While hanging out in Soho with the likes of Francis Bacon and Leigh Bowery, he developed a persona that combined the hyper-camp of the post war pop culture with the hard-as-nails attitude of his working class past. His increasingly exotic image took him to America where he now lives, still wrestling in his 70s and running an artisan cottage industry, producing bespoke costumes for the wrestling industry.

Grizedale Arts, which is based on the outskirts of the village of Coniston, worked with Jeremy Deller to recreate a Mechanics Institute based on the still-intact Coniston Institute, which was developed by John Ruskin and WG Collingwood.

Alistair Hudson, Deputy Director of Grizedale Arts, explained the development of the work and its aims: 'I had been working on an idea for an exhibition on John Ruskin last year and had been talking to Jeremy about him doing something within that context. For a while he had been planning to make this film about Adrian Street, and this seemed to fit very well with the theme. When both Jeremy and Grizedale Arts were both approached by the Bienal we talked about collaborating to help realise Jeremy's project, as it seemed logical to bring these elements of Ruskin, Coniston and Adrian Street together.

'On the one hand we just want to support good artists to make good work with pertinent content. This film is such a great story, it demonstrates the complexity of culture in the UK through both Adrian Street and Jeremy Deller's reflection of it. But it is also, in terms of its subject, very relevant and accessible to a wider audience outside of the UK, particularly somewhere like Brazil, which is experiencing its own industrial and cultural revolution of the kind that ultimately produced a character like Adrian. On the other hand the presentation format of the film in a working setting, the Institute, the education programme, all contribute to a bigger discussion about the role and purpose of art. And in a very direct way, how we develop the Coniston Institute back home in our village.'

Jeremy Deller added: 'Grizedale often work with artists over a long period of time in a way that some institutions would find difficult to sustain. Dialogue with artists is key, as is their position as cultural provocateurs, which is unusual to say the least in this nervous climate. They are also not afraid of failure which they occasionally embrace. I think Adrian Street's life and wilful personality appealed to their belief in the beauty of the everyday.'

Helen Wewiora, Visual Arts Relationship Manager, Arts Council England, concluded: 'Grizedale Arts' challenging and fascinating work is powered by a restless imagination and energy that is constantly seeking to find new ways to engage with artists and audiences in their Lake District home and far beyond. Joining here with one of the leading contemporary artists in the world to present this film and installation to a diverse, international audience in San Paulo, Grizedale continue to break new and exciting ground, while further raising the profile of our region's innovative arts sector.'

Based in the English Lake District, Grizedale Arts runs a thought-provoking programme of events, projects and residencies that develops the contemporary arts in new directions, away from the romantic and modern assumptions of culture, helping artists to work more usefully in this complex and multiple-cultural environment.

For more information about Grizedale Arts visit: www.grizedale.org

For more information about Jeremy Deller visit: www.jeremydeller.org

To watch a clip from So Many Ways to Hurt You, the Life and Times of Adrian Street visit: www.grizedale.org/projects/sao-paulo-bienal

For more information about the San Paulo Bienal visit: www.fbsp.org.br