So here it is, Jeremy Deller’s bouncyhenge. Or balloonhenge, or wobblyhenge (thought I’d get in first with those three as a starter). The Glasgow International Festival of Visual Art has opened, and down on Glasgow Green is a full-scale inflatable replica of Stonehenge as it looks now (less the fallen stones, apparently for reasons of cost). Unlike the original, it’s free to enter and you can bounce around amongst the stones. It comes down to London for the 2012 Olympics, then goes on tour (I think to as yet undecided locations). Click on these images to watch a great BBC video, and more here.
Deller calls the work Sacrilege, reflecting his sense that archaeologists, at least, as he told me earlier, might be offended by it (he later emailed me details, in case “it might come as [a] shock to hear about it out of the blue”). I’m not so sure. It certainly looks to to be popular with the public, and my guess is most archaeologists would love it.
It’s very Deller. He’s known for his ambitious historical re-enactment projects, especially The Battle of Orgreave (the clash between police and miners that occurred during the miners’ strike). There’s always an unexpected side that makes you see something differently. In Acid Brass, working with others, he got the Williams Fairey Brass Band to play arrangements of acid house and Detroit techno.
Children running around a full scale inflatable Stonehenge has this sense of a humorous twist on historical re-enactments. At Stonehenge in particular, these tend to be brown, slow, quiet and humourless, but for the odd flame or strangled trumpet – quite unlike anything I imagine that might have occurred thousands of years ago. Sacrilege certainly offers the opportunity to address Stonehenge from a new angle.
There’s an industry of Stonehenge replicas. I was the archaeologist in a team that made a full-scale painted polystyrene Stonehenge for Channel 5 in 2005. It was done to look how it would have been when new, and was extraordinarily realistic, and came to be called Foamhenge. What we didn’t know at the time was that Mark Cline had made a full scale Foamhenge in Virginia the year before, looking like Stonehenge does now. Good places to start to see some of these are at Wikipedia and – best of all – Clonehenge.