Martin Creed: What’s the Point of It? - Hayward Gallery, London, 29 Jan – 24 April 2014
Hayward Publishing - Martin Creed: What’s the Point of It? with contributions from Bill Bailey, Cliff Lauson, Paul Morley, Joahim Pissarro, 2014, £35
|Work No. 1143, 2011|
The need to make choices introduces the possibility of making a mistake. Martin Creed has often explained his wish to avoid that. Accordingly, he has devised four main choice-avoidance strategies:
|Work No. 1000 Broccoli prints, 2009-10|
|Work No. 629, 2007|
Creed has chosen a circumcised member and one which varies little in size between the flaccid and erect phases. That shifts the focus to a typically simple contrast of – and refusal to choose between - up and down, rather than introducing growth or emergence as topics. It’s easy enough, then, to imagine how Creed could have chosen differently, or could have used his ‘progression’ or ‘all the types available’ stratagems for choice avoidance, perhaps by lining up a synchronised multitude. Creed may have made the right decisions here, but quite a lot of choices were required.
Work No. 1686, 2013 turns Creed’s on / off mode into a comedy caper. There’s a car on the upper floor’s sculpture terrace, which isn’t completely absurd, as the Hayward’s architecture is rather like a multi-storey car park. That could be it, were this a work about placement, so there’s scope to be startled when the car springs into comprehensive life: the horn honks, the doors, bonnet and boot fly open like a beetle’s wing cases, the lights flash on and wink, and the radio blares - as well as the engine starting.
The 30 second cycle has a fullness missing from earlier examples such as the door opening and closing. This, I feel, should join the lights and the balloon fest – here in a 7,000 strong white version requiring two staff on permanent pumping duty – as Creed’s key half-and-half works. Those on-off pieces are then a sub-set of the demonstrations of binary states, of which I think the cleverest is the screwing up of a piece of A4 paper (Work No.88, 1995), in which the work is simultaneously made and unmade, destroyed and created.
|Work No. 1325, 2011|
|Work No. 1497 Jumping Up Portrait of Luciana, 2013|
The book’s oddest contribution is from comedian Bill Bailey: he selects a hundred of Creed’s works, reprised as pink thumbnails, and gives them alternative titles. I didn’t laugh, nor did I feel enlightened. There are more orthodoxly-presented essays by Paul Morley, who considers Creed in the context of his long-running band, as ‘a musician who thinks like an artist, an artist who thinks like a musician’; and by Cliff Lauson, who discusses how Creed tests limits while also seeking to elicit emotional responses from the viewer. Lauson sees that (I’m not sure I agree: what about, say, Vito Acconci, Ana Mendieta, Nancy Holt, Bas Jan Ader?) as being unexpected in conceptual work, and so part of the case for saying, with Creed, that he’s more of an expressionist. Joachim Pissarro has talked extensively to the artist, but we don’t get the usual interview format. Instead, Pissarro provides commentaries on several of Creed’s ‘apophthegms’, as he terms them. Those cover his fascination with numbers, his humour, the potential connections to his Quaker upbringing: Quakers don’t believe in sacred places or leaders, which ‘returns us to the cornerstone of Creed’s work… an anarchistic approach which sees everything being equal’ – another way of framing his preference for not choosing – ‘like the Quakers, Creed considers has work, his life, his self to be equal parts of the world’.
|Still from Work No. 610 Sick Film|