Why did Jeremy Deller bring an Iraqi suicide car bomb into museums?

Jeremy Deller – It is what it is- Conversations About Iraq, 2009, Installation view, New Museum, New York, 2009
Jeremy DellerIt is what it is- Conversations About Iraq, 2009, New Museum, New York
Photo: Benoit pailley/jeremydeller.org

The bombing that killed 38 people

In the Imperial War Museum in London, surrounded by some of the most powerful military hardware of the last 100 years rests a rusting, crumpled car. This is a clear example of what war does. The car is a piece by Jeremy Deller and was a car that was contorted in a street bombing that killed 38 people and wounded many more at Baghdad’s Al-Mutanabbi book market. Al-Mutanabbi book market1 was at the heart of Baghdad’s cultural and intellectual life.

What the car represents

The car serves as a sobering reminder of the consequences of war on civilians, the toll it takes on lives, the destruction and devastation that comes with every act of war. The artist, Deller, won the Turner prize in 2004, is best known for recreating the Battle of Orgreave from the miners’ strike.

The visual destruction and devastation on the vehicle are only small and representative compared to the destruction and devastation in people’s lives, especially those who are in war-torn countries. Lives are lost and destroyed, worlds and realities become twisted and mangled, and families become broken. Deller’s piece is a gateway into the hurt, harm, and brokenness that comes with war. The fact that this piece is held at a war museum is also extremely significant.

Conclusion

This piece serves as a discussion piece, arguing different sides and aspects of war- this piece is simply what we need more of. Thought-provoking, raw, emotional, and profound- it takes the audience’s thoughts in different directions as they inspect the twisted metal that was once a fully formed vehicle, maybe like their own. It takes the audience to a place of realism and realization and takes something that is often out of sight and out of mind and places it directly in the guest’s line of sight.

Photos: Hammer Museum

Jeremy Deller - It Is What It Is- Conversations About Iraq, at the Hammer Museum, UCLA, Los Angeles, 2009
Jeremy DellerIt is what it is- Conversations About Iraq, 2009, Hammer Museum, UCLA, Los Angeles
Photo: Hammer Museum/hammer.ucla.edu

Jeremy Deller - It Is What It Is- Conversations About Iraq, at the Hammer Museum, UCLA, Los Angeles, 2009
Jeremy DellerIt is what it is- Conversations About Iraq, 2009, Hammer Museum, UCLA, Los Angeles
Photo: Hammer Museum/hammer.ucla.edu

Photos: Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago

Jeremy Deller - It Is What It Is- Conversations About Iraq, at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, 2009. Photography © MCA, Chicago. Photographer, Nathan Keay
Jeremy DellerIt is what it is- Conversations About Iraq, 2009, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, 2009
Photo: MCA, Chicago/mcachicago.org

Jeremy Deller - It Is What It Is- Conversations About Iraq, at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, 2009. Photography © MCA, Chicago. Photographer, Nathan Keay
Jeremy DellerIt is what it is- Conversations About Iraq, 2009, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, 2009
Photo: MCA, Chicago/mcachicago.org

Photo: Hayward Gallery, Southbank Centre

 Jeremy Deller - It is what it is- Conversations About Iraq, 2009, at Joy in People at the Hayward Gallery, Southbank Centre,  Photos: Linda Nylind
Jeremy DellerIt is what it is- Conversations About Iraq, 2009, at Joy in People at the Hayward Gallery, Southbank Centre
Photo: Linda Nylind/jeremydeller.org

Photos: On tour

Jeremy Deller – It is what it is- Conversations About Iraq, 2009
Jeremy DellerIt is what it is- Conversations About Iraq, 2009

Jeremy Deller – It is what it is- Conversations About Iraq, 2009
Jeremy DellerIt is what it is- Conversations About Iraq, 2009

Jeremy Deller – It is what it is- Conversations About Iraq, 2009
Jeremy DellerIt is what it is- Conversations About Iraq, 2009

Jeremy Deller – It is what it is- Conversations About Iraq, 2009
Jeremy DellerIt is what it is- Conversations About Iraq, 2009

Jeremy Deller – It is what it is- Conversations About Iraq, 2009, Flyer given to members of the public during the destroyed car's tour across the US
Flyer given to members of the public during the destroyed car’s tour across the US

All images by Jeremy Deller/jeremydeller.org/ unless otherwise noted.

Videos

BBC Report on Jeremy Deller’s installation at the Imperial War Museum

3min 35sec

Jeremy Deller speaks about the artwork, 2010

2min 8sec

Related works

Related readings

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mutanabbi_Street
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