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Daniel Birnbaum

View of Jeremy Deller’s “English Magic,” 2013, British pavilion, Venice. Foreground: I searched for form and land for years and years I roamed, 2013. Background: A Good Day for Cyclists, 2013. Photo: Cristano Corte.

JUST WHAT IS GOING ON at the top of that little hill? There, on the far crest of the Giardini, is where the power triangle—the UK, Germany, France—have their pavilions. It seems Old Europe is hoping to revive itself, whether through rejuvenating infusions from more vigorous parts of the globe, or by means of a return to occult sources believed to still be vital. One of Europe’s most precious cultural crystal balls since 1895, the Venice Biennale this year is filled with esoteric visions. A humorless Swiss variety is clearly in dominance (e.g., Carl Jung’s Red Book), but thank God Jeremy Deller introduces a special “English Magic” (the title of his exhibition and his film in the British pavilion) and creates one of the wittiest and most delightful national contributions I can remember.

Deller’s visual essay deals with a few chapters of his nation’s self-mythology via art,

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