YOU HAVE TO give Martin Creed points for his new ‘exhibition’ (wittily and challengingly named, “What’s the point of it?”) now on at the Haywood.
It’s not so much an exhibition of art – more an attempt to immerse the visitor into a dimension resembling an entire life (his life? a life?). The “it” of the title pretty much sums up every non-religeous person’s existential question…or maybe just a more banal question about the exhibition.
Martin invites us inside his head. As you’d expect -from an artist- there are (acrylic) painting-like objects on some of the walls. But these are almost there merely to distract us, the way Eliot said the words of his poetry are there merely to distract us while its poetry did the work. There’s also what can only be described as an experience of his relationship with his mother ( a vast beckoning Motel- type neon sign with the word “mother” in lights, looming and rotating high enough so that it won’t knock your head off, low enough so that you’re nervous and uncomfortable in its presence. He must have been in awe of her). There are multiple sundry stacks of ” things” (there’s even a neon “things” sign hanging on a wall) such as empty boxes of miscellaneous domestic appliances (which presumably are in use at home), wooden planks and metal beams (the physical infrastructure of his life/home), chairs neatly layered one atop another, and therefore stripped of functionality (just like art)
And, oh yes, in the courtyard outside, just in case it was all too cerebral, past a warning sign, a large video of a penis slowly growing erect. Call it the art of tumescence. Or call it boasting
You enter the main hall ( with the intimidating “mother” neon sign) by squeezing past an over-stuffed sofa – perhaps a reflection of the artist’s difficult entry into the world… and into the World of Art. The visitor, by being squeezed into his exhibition has inadvertently yielded control to the artist. This room displays a scatter of objects (including a ball of crumpled paper… rejected art?) and is lined by sixty metronomes, each one set at a different beat. The visitor is physically sandwiched between the birthing neon “mother” above and the tick tock of passing time, of death, at his feet. There is a giant portrait of the artist on one of the walls; silent witness to it all
Each room ( there are about six) offers what might be called the flotsam and jetsam of the things that shape and describe a life, a state of mind – some serious stuff to ponder ( is a chair deprived of its function still a chair, or does it merely become an objet of contemplation and aesthetic harmony? Is a collection of balls an image of a sporting life or some sort of post-Platonic, Aristotelian perspective on the need to catalogue as means of ordering life?) and some jokey stuff to laugh at (on one wall, there are a number of framed doodles, as if to suggest:”I’m an artist; this is an Art Gallery, so QED, this shit is art!” Next to it there are four large photos of ‘laughing people’. Friends of the artist guiding the viewer not to take it all too seriously)
One room features a curtain which slowly draws back, theatrically, to reveal the view outside. The view is both of ‘the real world’ (and thereby punning on the old idea of art as looking thru a window) and, bathetically, of a brick wall. This isn’t art that can be hung and sold…the removal of the wall would mean its destruction. So what’s the point if it? Possibly, therein lies the idea: the curtains reveal the potential of freedom to come, of walls coming down.
I really do admire artists who have the balls (we’ve seen them) to tackle such daunting subjects as “MY LIFE” without feeling intimidated by the many who must come in, look around, shrug and dismiss it all as crap.
They wouldn’t have gotten the point