Turner prize-winning artist to create plastic version of Stonehenge on Glasgow Green

THE familiar outlines of Stonehenge are to appear on Glasgow Green as part of an ambitious project by award-winning artist Jeremy Deller.

The Turner Prize-winner is constructing his version of the ancient monument in plastic so that the public will be able to “interact” with the work as part of the city’s International Festival of the Visual Arts.

Deller specialises in creating “happenings” and has chosen Glasgow Green as the best open setting for this work.

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Sacrilege, which will be unveiled this week, is described as a large-scale piece that is light enough to be taken to several locations in London after its Glasgow debut.

One arts insider said: “It’s a real coup for the festival’s director Katrina Brown to have an artist of Deller’s stature create a work. This is something that’s going to be seen here, first and foremost, and then will go elsewhere. The festival is getting the first slice of it.”

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Sacrilege will be Deller’s first major public project in Scotland. It has been co-commissioned by the Glasgow festival, which starts on Friday, and the Mayor of London’s office. After its Scottish run, it will be taken to London as a cultural tourist attraction during the Olympic Games.

Teaser online images show a walker standing in front of a carved pillar of stone. Although the artwork is interactive, organisers say it will not be accessible during “extreme weather”.

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Deller has refused to talk openly about Sacrilege before it is unveiled, but in a recent interview he said: “The public can go on it, as it were. The public can interact with it. It’s a big public thing in a public place.”

Sacrilege will be free and hopefully “an enjoyable experience”, he added.

“That’s what I’m hoping for, that people enjoy it, become part of it, as it were. It’s meant to be a celebratory thing. Hopefully, people’s interaction with it will bring out the character of the place. Hopefully people will respond to it in a Glaswegian manner.”

Deller, 45, won the Turner Prize in 2004 and is known for work that celebrates social rituals, communities and collective memory.

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His work is normally highly ambitious in scale and has covered such subjects as the miners’ strike, the siege at Waco and the war in Iraq. He is best known for his 2001 performance piece, The Battle of Orgreave, a full-scale re-enactment of a violent clash between police and striking miners in 1984, when prime minister Margaret Thatcher took on the miners’ unions.

Memory Bucket, his film surveying the landscape of Waco, Texas, the scene of a 1993 US government siege that ended in the deaths of cult leader David Koresh and 74 of his followers, won him the Turner Prize.

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In 2009, Deller created Procession, a uniquely Mancunian parade through the centre of Manchester, and also Conversations About Iraq, a project designed to encourage public discussion by having guest experts engage museum visitors in an unscripted dialogue about issues concerning Iraq.

In 2010, he was awarded the Albert Medal of the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures & Commerce for “creating art that encourages public responses and creativity”. His latest work, Exodus, is a 3D film showing thousands of bats swarming out of a cave as dusk descends.

Stonehenge is a prehistoric monument of large standing stones on the Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire. Archaeologists believe it was built between 3000 BC and 2000 BC and is part of the most dense complex of Neolithic and Bronze Age monuments in the UK.

It was possible to walk among and even climb on the stones until 1977, when they were roped off to counter serious erosion – a decision that provoked protests.

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English Heritage does, however, permit access during the summer and winter solstice, and the spring and autumn equinox because of the site’s links to ancient religions.

The Glasgow International Festival of the Visual Arts runs from 20 April to 7 May and is a city-wide showcase of contemporary art. Other artists on show include another Turner Prize winner, Richard Wright, German photographer Wolfgang Tilmans, Glasgow artist Lorna McIntyre, and black civil rights activist Emory Douglas. Karla Black, last year’s Scottish Turner prize nominee, is using 16 tonnes of sawdust to create a sculpture in the basement of the Gallery of Modern Art.