Willoughby Thom

BA Honors | Art History


My name is Willoughby Thom, I am from Los Angeles, California, and I am graduating from Notre Dame with an Honors degree in Art History and French. Next fall, I will be pursuing my master’s degree at Columbia University in Modern and Contemporary Art: Critical and Curatorial Studies.


The Lo-Fi Archive: Jeremy Deller and The Vernacular

Jeremy Deller (b. 1966) is a British contemporary artist, social curator, film director, quasi-anthropologist, art historian, 2004 Turner Prize winner, and creator of things. Deller has described himself as a “self-taught conceptual artist,” and what makes his work distinct is that he does not attach himself to a single approach or philosophy. Since 1993, Deller has created a large body of diverse work, ranging from re-enactments to curatorial endeavors to collaborating with musicians to directing films to making posters. Deller does not limit himself to a specific categorization; instead, he allows his interests—music, bats, the Industrial Revolution, Stonehenge—to cross-pollinate, resulting in a diverse portfolio of seemingly unrelated work, interconnected by his interest in people. However, because of the inability to perfectly classify Deller’s work, his inaugural exhibitions, Open Bedroom (1993) and Uses of Literacy (1997), serve as an important foundation for understanding and conceptualizing his ongoing artistic practice. Both exhibitions explore the notion of “the archive,” in personal and collective terms, demonstrating how pop culture can serve as a valuable lens through which we can understand human history. This thesis aims to generate a clear understanding of Jeremy Deller’s ongoing artistic and conceptual practice through a detailed analysis of his early exhibitions, Open Bedroom and Uses of Literacy, which exemplify the artist’s unique ability to subvert conventional approaches to history through vernacular traditions.