What's the point of it?

News - What's the point of it?

As you walk into the Martin Creed retrospective at London’s Hayward Gallery, you’re greeted with a sofa pushed awkwardly half way across the door. Skirting round it, you come face to face with a huge spinning neon sculpture that spells out “MOTHERS” – anyone above six foot will need to duck at certain points to avoid being clobbered in the face. In fact, this piece is so awkward, the gallery has had to shut off the ramp that connects the upper and lower floors as the spinning colossus makes it impassable.

Installation viewWork no. 10922011Martin Creed WhatOCOes the point of it Hayward Gallery. the artist. Photo Linda Nylind 8
It all makes for a confrontational first few minutes in the exhibition, but that’s exactly the point – both of this room and the show as a whole. While for some tabloid-cynics Martin Creed will always be the charlatan who won the Turner Prize by turning lights on and off, his brilliance – perhaps even genius – actually lies in the way he toys with the gallery-going experience, and thereby leads us to question and rethink our relationship with art.

 Installation viewWork No. 1806 2014 Martin Creed WhatOCOes the point of it Hayward Gallery. the artist. Photo Linda Nylind 27
Whether it’s hundreds of coloured prints made using broccoli florets on a huge white wall, a room half-filled with giant white balloons (about the most fun we have ever had in a gallery) or his trademark sculptures of girders or cacti carefully arranged in ascending size order, the whole thing is designed to wrongfoot us.

 Installation view Work no. 1000 2009 2010 Martin Creed WhatOCOes the point of it Hayward Gallery. the artist. Photo Linda Nylind 22

Installation view Work no. 200 1998 Martin Creed WhatOCOes the point of it Hayward Gallery. the artist. Photo Linda Nylind1

Martin Creed Work no 629
Some pieces are beautifully baffling, such as the sheer brick wall erected on one of the al fresco terraces. Other pieces revel in silliness, like a door that opens and closes on its own to which visitors flock expectantly, only to be greeted with a dull fire escape on the other side. At its best we become complicit in Creed’s games; on a different terrace there is a grey Ford Focus which bursts into life on a pre-programmed cycle with its boot, doors and bonnet flying open and the alarm and radio blaring out. The first time you get caught unawares and jump out of your skin; from then on you wait to watch new victims.

Martin Creed Work no 998
The show’s title – “What Is The Point Of It?” – and the way his pieces are named in strict chronological order all contribute to the sense that we shouldn’t take it too seriously. It’s hugely enjoyable, it’s engaging and in its own way it’s thought-provoking, but there’s no need to overthink it. There’s far too much fun to be had for that.

What’s the Point of it? is on show at the Hayward Gallery until Sunday 27 April


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