Jeremy Deller, New Commissions: It Is What It Is: Conversations About Iraq, 2008. Installation view, New Museum, New York. Photos by Benoit Pailley.

Jeremy Deller Pursues a Moveable Conversation about Iraq

Hammer Museum
10899 Wilshire Boulevard
Los Angeles
It is What It is: Conversations about Iraq
April 21-May 17, 2009

It Is What It Is: Conversations About Iraq, is a new commission by British artist Jeremy Deller. In an effort to encourage the public to discuss the present circumstances in Iraq, a revolving cast of participants including veterans, journalists, scholars, and Iraqi nationals who have expertise in a particular aspect of the region and/or first-hand experience of Iraq have been invited to take up residence in the Hammer Museum’s gallery space. The exhibition originated at the New Museum in February 2009 and in March Deller traveled aboard an RV with two selected Iraq experts and a writer, who documented the journey from New York to Los Angeles. The RV stopped at various cultural institutions and community centers along the way to continue the conversation on a national scale, arriving at the Hammer Museum in April, and traveled in the fall to Chicago.

Several objects share the gallery to further stimulate the discussions about Iraq. The most significant artifact is the remains of a car which was exploded on Al-Mutanabbi, a street in Baghdad which contained numerous cafés and book markets, which has meaning to Deller as it was from an area considered the nexus of Baghdadi cultural and intellectual life. The car serves as evidence of the continuing violence in Iraq and is meant to ground conversation in the facts, figures, and eyewitness descriptions that may have been lacking in information about the Iraq war. A large banner; maps that show sister cities of Iraq; and photos documenting the site of the car explosion are also included in the gallery.


In 2004, The Three M Project was conceived and developed together with the New Museum, New York,the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, and the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, to jointly commission, exhibit, and acquire important works of contemporary art by artists whose work has not yet received significant recognition.

All three museums share a collaborative vision and entrepreneurial spirit, and the belief that ambitious projects on a national scale can be produced through efficiency, knowledge, and resource sharing. The partnership, now in its second cycle, involves four new commissions by Jeremy Deller, Daria Martin, Mathias Poledna, and Urban China. The Three M project is directed by leading curators from each museum: Laura Hoptman, Kraus Family Senior Curator, New Museum; Elizabeth Smith, James W. Alsdorf Chief Curator, with Dominic Molon, Curator, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; and Ali Subotnik, Curator, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles.

Born in London in 1966, Jeremy Deller is a conceptual, video, and installation artist who studied at the Courtauld Institute of Art and the University of London and received his MA in art history from the University of Sussex. Over the past ten years, Jeremy Deller has archived, examined, and often staged demonstrations, exhibitions, historical reconstructions, parades, and concerts as a way to both celebrate and critically examine them as forms of social action.

His work focuses on cultural history — how it is made, recorded, manipulated, and remembered. One of his most well-known works, a re-creation of a battle between pickets and police during the miner’s strike in the north of England in 1984, was subsequently made into a documentary by Mike Figgis and was broadcast internationally. A more recent work, a film about Texas entitled Memory Bucket, won Deller the prestigious Turner Prize in 2004.

Conversations about Iraq tour at Kansas City Art Institute in Kansas City, Missouri.

Jeremy Deller on campus at Kansas City Art Institute.

Jeremy Deller

Jeremy Deller, New Commissions: It Is What It Is: Conversations About Iraq, 2008. Installation view, New Museum, New York. Photos by Benoit Pailley.


Jeremy Deller, Page from Jeremy Deller's Journal, October 2008.