Monday 14 April 2014

Martin Creed, Hayward Gallery

I hadn't heard of the artist before, but working in Waterloo, you'd be hard pushed to miss the giant "Martin Creed" signs that hang from the Southbank Centre, which houses the Hayward Gallery. On mentioning in the office that I was going, it turned out that a colleague of mine had already been. "Yeah, I really enjoyed it," he said, "but I wouldn't bother with the video of the woman having a shit".

But let me tell you a little about the artist. This is the first major exhibition for Brit Martin Creed, who has made his name worldwide for his unconventional approach to art, in which he strips back all the elements that he perceives as unnecessary. I found his current show at the Hayward Gallery brilliantly refreshing. Entitled "What's The Point Of It?", the pressure that usually comes with a modern art exhibition was gone. There was no "Do I get it? Am I missing something?". Instead, my friends and I walked around, simply talking about what we liked and didn't like, and whenever we couldn't really see the point in some, we'd just say "Well maybe there isn't one!". This may or may not have been Martin Creed's intention, but we were certainly happy.

You enter the exhibition in a bit of a whirlwind. In the first room you're met by a huge rotating beam with the word "MOTHERS" spelt out in neon along the top. It was coming around at quite a speed, and two of us ducked as it passed over (my other friend, however, didn't flinch at all. "They wouldn't have it so low to hit you!" she said - I'm glad she was so confident!). Along with the near death experience, the room is lined with thirty-nine metronomes, all set to different speeds. There's a crumpled piece of paper under a class cabinet which, once you've stared at it long enough and decide to consult the description, is helpfully named "Work No.88 A sheet of A4 paper crumbled into a ball" (and in case you were wondering, that's also what's typed on the paper itself).

All creatives, my friends and I oo-ed and aah-ed as we carried on through the exhibition, at simple things like the pleasing colour patterns in Creed's watercolour, acrylic and highlighter paintings, and the wall striped with differently patterned tapes. I personally connected on an OCD level with his three dimensional pieces; "Work 78 As many 2.5cm squares as are necessary cut from Elastoplast tape and piled up, adhesive sides down, to form a 2.5cm cubic stack"; the boxes, chairs, and even tables of different styles, piled up one on top of the next in ascending order. One may think this a load of rubbish, but there's a real sense of humour in a door repeatedly opening and closing (similar to his Turner Prize winning work, an empty room where the lights went on and off at five second intervals). There were also great conversation pieces; we spent ages by the collection of sports balls, identifying each one. 

More assaults on the senses awaited us upstairs, and out on the gallery's balconies too. Creed's own Ford Focus was parked in the open air, which sprung into life with doors opening, wipers flapping and the radio turning on simultaneously. On another veranda, there was an exceptional view of London's architectual landmarks.... And of a man having an erection, close up and several metres high on an LED video screen. Even that had us giggling, with long-forgotten memories of dreaded sex ed lessons all flooding back. But where we really had fun, as all visitors to the exhibition would agree, was in the balloon room. It's unlike any feeling I've ever felt, moving through a space where I'm surrounded by thousands of white balloons that pile high above my head. It's a bit of a wonderland, far better than those hideous plastic ballpits we all will have experienced as children, and I didn't have any feelings of claustrophobia like I anticipated I would. We jumped about, screamed girlishly when one popped, and got a bit of a shock when we suddenly came across a stranger! Reading up further on this piece, I've found out that the air within the space has been divided up so that exactly half is contained within the balloons (so maybe, there is sort of a point after all...?).

I'd love to finish my review there, but you're probably all still waiting to hear about the installation I've tried to block from my memory. The woman, ahem, "relieving" herself. When my colleague mentioned it, I assumed, as maybe some of you did, that this would be a rather boring video of a lady on the loo. But oh was I wrong, for in the video, the woman enters on screen and (there is no better way of saying this) SQUATS, right there. I will not go into details, but I dread to think what the little boy standing in front of me will be writing in his Easter Holiday diary when he goes back to school. Needless to say we didn't stick around, and therefore missed her coming out after the act and throwing up in the same spot. We also passed on purchasing Creed's "SICK" DVD in the gift shop, or the postcard.

Like my friend at work, I'd definitely recommend the Martin Creed exhibition to others... Although it does come with a warning!

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