On the occasion of a talk Martin Creed gave at Sotheby's Institute in London, MA Contemporary Art students offered their thoughts on the artist's style, impact, and some of the his most rememberable works. Here, Anne Long grapples with the questions that Creed's work and music evoke for her.
Martin Creed has constructed much of his work as an open-ended question. Is it better to think or not to think? Is it a concept or a feeling? Is it better with the lights on or off?
His music is a little easier to wrap your head around than his sculptural or spatial works even as it continues to reduce life to its bare essentials. Understanding his work requires an understanding of life, particularly the uncontrolled impulses that rule us. How can we understand impulses that most of the time we aren’t even aware of? And if we can’t, how can we ever understand what Martin Creed is doing?
Maybe there are no absolute answers and maybe that’s the point. Even just thinking about this I can’t help becoming more and more aware of the everyday events unfolding around me. Voices drifting in from the street below, the rhythm of the construction work across the street, the shuffling of feet in the hallway. The feeling is irritation at the distraction and the thought I have next is, how can I possibly write about art when life keeps intruding? Except they are the same, particularly in the case of Martin Creed.
Creed draws attention to our most basic impulses. He isn’t the only one who can’t move. None of us can. We all have announcements, but nobody wants an appointment to make them. The constant repetition in his lyrics serves not only to place greater and greater emphasis on a few core words but also the fundamental nature of the concept. He is, in a sense, presenting us with the unconsidered parts of our lives, the sounds that make up language or the choice to think or not to think, and leaving it to us to understand.
This could easily become a convoluted intellectual exercise with too many questions that may be impossible to answer, but Creed has always managed to keep an undertone of lightheartedness in his work. The happy beats not only make his music easy to dance to, they also make his message unintimidating.
Creed does not condemn or pass judgment, he merely points to things that often go unnoticed allowing them to be just as they are. Maybe that’s what it means to understand, allowing something to be just as it is.
Written by Anne Long, MA Contemporary Art student