Now and then I come across something so awe inspiring it reminds me, even if only for a few minutes, seconds, or perhaps more honestly, only for a flash of a second – maybe that’s all it takes – to remember that contrary to how it absolutely seems on an almost 24/7 basis – I am not the centre of the world.
Yes, oh yes, it’s a rude awakening - but not all bad.
The other day I was in what an acquaintance of mine, Shirlee, would call a ‘funk’. I would call her a friend, but as I have to pay her for the illusion of friendship I’m not sure it entirely counts.
So I’m sitting there at my desk in an absolute hump. Not one of my rages, although they’re a bit special too. No, this was a hump alright. Everything and everyone was absolute unmitigated rubbish and nothing was ever going to be even as acceptable as OK ever again.
I was trawling through my email wondering why so many monstrously tedious people kept sending me so many monstrously tedious emails (it was a silly hump my beloved friends, I do appreciate and value you, please forgive my momentary foolishness) when I came across an email from somebody I didn’t know, telling me about a viral marketing campaign committed by so-called artists group mindheist, upon Martin Creed’s Work No 850, currently showing at Tate Britain. Famously, and of course, not un-controversially, Creed won the Turner Prize in 2001 with Work No 227 – subtitle – The Lights Go On and Off – in which, errr, the lights go on and off, at periodic five second intervals.
Don’t even get me started. Scoff if you want but you know what happened to Doubting Thomas. Actually I’m not sure I do know what happened to Doubting Thomas, but I’m pretty sure he didn’t win the lottery. It’s easy to scoff and sneer and look down your nose but it doesn’t get you anywhere. It’s that self-respect thing Groucho.
Martin Creed’s Work No 850 consists of a relay of semi-professional athletes running the 86 meters down the length of the main Duveen Galleries, every thirty seconds, as fast as they can.
For me, to see this was to lift the heart. To see this was to get over myself.
Because the profoundest truths can only be expressed in the simplest terms. The fundamental straight forwardness of this work contains, investigates and communicates, so many of the most complex facets of human existence, but it does so in a way that even a child can engage with, enjoy and learn from, but at the same time, in a way that I imagine, even the most compassionate, intelligent, and self-aware being would be able to draw something from.
The simplicity, beauty and profundity of Martin Creed’s work by-passed my brain and touched my soul.
The runners represent the consistency we all long for in an inconsistent world. The regularity and predictability a source of great comfort amidst the chaos and senselessness that we struggle, always unsuccessfully, to make sense of.
The work is like life – the runners come and go just as we do. At the same time it is the opposite of life apparent – regular, rhythmic, predictable. It’s a paradox and at the same time, a non-paradox. It’s wonderful.
‘I want to make things. I’m not sure why, but I think it’s got something to do with other people. I think I want to try to communicate with other people, because I want to say “hullo”, because I want to express myself and because I want to be loved.’ Martin Creed
It doesn’t come more universal than that.
And so it seems Puma thought they fancied a bit of the universal action. Puma and mindheist apparently cooked up the idea of sending what I assume, from the look of him, was a professional actor, to interact with Work No 850, and grab a slice of this particular love pie for themselves.
The result is an advert for pumps that somehow wavers on the border between the grotesque and the ingenious.
The camera follows a handsome blonde athletic looking guy up the steps of Tate Britain – freeze frame on his sexy black Pumas whilst the funky music kicks in. He takes the steps two at a time, then hangs around the Duveen Galleries reading his newspaper (I haven’t figured out why he couldn’t bide his time looking at the art, but I guess that says it all) until one of Creeds runners appears, doing flat out, whereupon the Puma wearing actor/artist runs ahead of him – seemingly for his life – looking over his shoulder shouting the words “I didn’t know she was your wife”. Clearly mindheist scrimped on the script-writers.
Probably I shouldn’t be wasting so much time further promoting Puma’s offensive piss take in the face of Creed’s brilliance, but it’s interesting that a global mega corp such as puma should choose to piggy back on a piece of conceptual art. I don’t know what Martin Creed made of it, but in many ways, whatever mindheist’s intention, it’s hugely flattering, if not exactly respectfully executed. It only goes to re-iterate how important this work is. You don’t negate something, you don’t mimic it, you don’t attempt to undermine it, if you can’t see, on some level, conscious or otherwise, the truth of it. If something isn’t relevant to you, you simply don’t engage with it.
But enough about Puma and mindheist and their silly subterfuge.
Martin Creed’s work is about love, about our universal need to love and be loved. Sorry to bang on slightly, I know this is my pet subject at the moment, but it always seems to come back to the love. Without love what is there? What else is the point? Really? What else matters?
In the words of Work No 300 (2003) “the whole world + the work = the whole world.”
and in the words of Work No 790 (2007) “everything is going to be alright.”
After that what else is there to say?
CURRENTLY SHOING AT BEVERLEY KNOWLES FINE ART
In Bed With The Girls, until 1 November 2008
The Girls are emerging British artists Andrea Blood and Zoe Sinclair, both alumni of Central St Martins who met at school aged 16. The Girls work consists of staged portrait photography, including self portraiture, and performance art. The duo have previously exhibited at The Photographers' Gallery, The ICA, The National Portrait Gallery and the Los Angeles Center for Digital Art.
Since its launch in 2002 Beverley Knowles Fine Art has been developing an international reputation for championing women artists, dedicated to assisting the development of talented young graduates into successful challenging artists, as well as showing the work of more established contemporary masters. The gallery programme promotes interrelations between artists, curators and collectors to bring into being a platform that explores exciting new creative possibilities.