Thursday, 2 October 2008

Martin Creed is Sick

The new Martin Creed solo show at Ikon Gallery in Birmingham is slightly disturbing. I love it.

On entering the first floor gallery the first thing that hits you is the splattering sounds of vomiting. As you round the corner you see an unending, uninterrupted video of sex - a penis rhythmically bumping in and out... (just in case you needed a description of what's involved) Set in front of this projection (!) almost as a physical distraction from the visual and auditory assault (or maybe as evidence of it's potentially anxiety-inducing content) was a piece of white paper, screwed up into a ball, neatly housed on a plastic covered plinth.

The sounds of sick mentioned above are part of a video work (Work No.583 - 2007) consisting of 4 TV's on which 4 people - 2 girls, 2 guys - step on screen and simultaneously make themselves puke. They continue for (presumably) as long as they can stomach, creating a trail or pool of sick where they stand, then leave. The videos are edited together so that each initial splattering hits the ground at the same time. They finish at different points, leaving the larger of the 2 girls to continue spewing berry-red vomit in a neat line a short time after the others have gone.

What I liked about this piece was that although it's a pretty straight forward process - they all stuck two fingers down their throat and hey presto - the style for each person was different. The bigger girl made a line, taking a step back after each heave. A thinner girl wandered on screen and stood on the spot, hair over her face, head down and made a neat pile at her feet; actions I guess that had not been preconceived probably as they were more concerned at the prospect of throwing up over and over again. And anyway how do you decide where to puke should you be given a nice empty white space like this one?

Other exhibits in the space included cacti or nails, arranged in a line from smaller to larger sizes, dictated either by nature or industry, and I soon realised that not only did each piece have a depth of consideration independently, but the combination of them came to form parallels and new dialogs - a dizzying experience in the space (in which a neon sign in the corner reads 'Dont Worry') and one that the gallery's invigilators we're notably distressed by. I spoke to an invigilator (who was not enjoying listening to the sound of sick for hours on end) who commented that mostly it was younger people that we're shocked at the work, and in their embarrassment tended to shuffle on quickly. Older people, it seems, have already experienced their fare share of sex, dealing with sick and comparing cacti.

Upstairs you have to dodge through a door that continually opens and closes, only to find that the sound of puke is replaced by the unnerving clatter of a line of metronomes, each set at a different and decreasing tempo. Twin TV's show video footage of a ferry coming into dock, one slightly delayed, so you are given two simultaneous windows in time for the same event. Sheets of paper are covered with short, singular non-overlapping strokes, which create a jostling, textured selection of drawings; every stroke evident.

'Work 160:The Lights Going On and Off (1996)' is housed in the tower room, and consists of... yes... the lights going on and off. I worked in clubs as a VJ for a few years and am well aware of the impact that lighting has on an audience; although standing quietly watching the world pass by through the windows, listening to the regular click of the automated on/off switch of these lights is perhaps more akin to the passing of days and nights, than the noise, disorientating flashes and momentary glimpses found at a club.

Martin Creed it seems likes to make the most of simple ideas. One of ideas is repetition, another is variation, he also likes a performance. Creed's talent seems to be to present minimum stimulus to maximum effect; something very simple which resonates across your psyche. The thinking space around each piece emboldens the concept, enhancing exponentially possible applications and greater considerations of it's reading and purpose. The clarity and simplicity of his work allows you to make your own associations and ponder your own applications of the basic processes.

I got stuck a few years ago creating my own art. One piece I created and repeated recently at the sadly deceased Crowd 6 Gallery is a series called 'If in doubt repeat' in which I didn't know what to do, so I just repeated the same thing over and over. It was amazing how much was revealed through repetition and variation. Maybe I'm sick, but Martin Creed has given me new inspiration in my doubt about what life's about.

You can see an extended version of the sick video along with Martin's Band live at The Electric Cinema on Saturday Oct 4th. Can't make it? Buy the DVD here. Cant wait??? Here's a taster from a similar piece 'Sick Film', Work No. 610.

Lucienne Cole and Friends present
Here & Now & The Future (Do you want to dance and blow your mind? on 31 October 2008 @ Ikon Eastside. 7.30pm–late.