I nearly didn’t go to see Martin Creed: What’s the point of it? at the Hayward Gallery on the South Bank. I’d heard some ‘interesting’ things about it and I wasn’t sure if it was the kind of thing I’d enjoy. However, the exhibition proved so popular that it was extended for a week, and I went to see it on Thursday evening, after work and before I went to the theatre. I definitely advocate going to see exhibitions during late-night weekday opening – the exhibition was really quiet, and the balloon room – which can have queues lasting up to an hour – was nearly empty.
Creed’s work belongs to the category I normally term as ‘crap modern art’, and I found myself asking the question posed in the exhibition’s title – “What’s the point of it?” – rather a lot as I walked around. Which begs the question, why did I go and see it? Curiosity, I suppose.
Creed names his works by numbers and in fairness to him his work is incredibly varied. On the one hand, among the exhibits are a piece of Blu-Tack stuck to a wall, a crumpled piece of paper, and a number of wall protrusions. More interesting to me was the large ‘Mothers’ sign that whirls around your head as you enter the exhibition: the idea behind this is that when you are little, your mother seems big and scary, as does this sign. Creed’s love of order is evident in the Lego bricks piled one on top of the other in size order, and the chairs and boxes piled up in similar ways.
The exhibition even reaches outside, with a couple of works on display on the terraces. One of these is a car which randomly bursts into life, its doors shooting open and its radio blaring, although I was more concerned with how on earth they got the car up there in the first place. On another terrace there was a film of a penis going up and down (the woman standing next to me remarked “I’ve seen better”).
The ‘balloon room’, aka Work No. 200, Half the air in a given space, was the best. The room was filled with balloons taking up half the air, resulting in a really fun room where you wade through tons of balloons with static lifting up your hair. I had so much fun here I thought it was worth the admission price alone.
There were paintings and pictures too, as well as sculptures and installations. The pictures using highlighters appealed to my precise nature, and I really liked the prints made using broccoli! The final work, though, left me completely bewildered. The infamous “sick film” shows people walking in front of the camera, vomiting and walking away, except in one case where a woman walks up, squats down and takes a shit instead. You can also buy this film in the gift shop – I am honestly baffled as to why anyone would want to watch someone defecating or being sick, or if they did, why they would pay £15 for a DVD rather than just popping down to their local high street on a Friday night. Oh well.
Though I remain sceptical of many of the exhibits, I do feel that the exhibition as a whole proved more than the sum of its parts, with interesting things to say about order, space, ambiguity and not taking the art world too seriously. It was more thought-provoking than I had expected and on balance, I don’t regret going to see it – even if I can’t get the image of someone being sick out of my head…