Blu-Tack: Is Nothing Enough?
You enter this show past an area that's
roped off for apparent health and safety reasons. One of the
terracota tiles on the entrance floor is a cemented stack of
tiles. You wander in and ponder further a show where the floor
is littered with pieces of A4 paper crumpled into balls or torn
into equal-sized pieces. Statements are being made, but, all
things being equal, they're non-commital statements. In the background,
a stuttering drum machine plays the self-descriptively titled:
All the sounds on a drum machine played one after the other,
in their given order, at a speed which makes the piece last for
one minute (Work No. 177). So what criteria is in this work?
The interview with Creed in the video accompanying
Creed Works is, it has to be said, entertaining. His central
claim is that he has 'no criteria'. Everything he does is an
attempt to do something insofar as it can be without decision-making.
He professes how he can't even decide on his shirt colour in
the morning. His talk about his work involves quasi-philosophical
equations like 'the whole world plus the work equals the whole
world' - as if nothing can be done. This equation is central
to his schtick.
He says he wants to make things but at
the same time he doesn't. He says he starts with nothing, adds
something, then takes something away and leaves you with nothing
more than something that's happened in the process. He comes
another equation: 'none plus one take one is none'. He chooses
his words precisely and with total conviction. But his delivery
is drier than a Sauvignon Blanc. He has an almost-smile that
has you wondering how serious he is or conversely how seriously
you aught to take him. Yet his indecisive logic works.
Take for example: Some Blu-Tack kneaded,
rolled into a ball, and depressed against a wall (Work No. 79).
This was a piece where he wanted to mount something on a wall
but he couldn't decide what to mount. Nothing more than an attempt
is made. Or is it? Is the kneading sculpting? Is the thumb-print
the signature? Why add anything?
A piece of yellow neon spells out 'THINGS'
in the middle of a wall. It is a brash and glitzy way of describing
... what? Something in the plural, evidently, but nothing in
particular. This is a hilarious piece. There is something relieving
about laughing out loud in the hushed and reverential confines
of a gallery. You laugh. Other visitors laugh, relieved someone
else has. Then they look again.
And perhaps this double-take is what Creed's
works do do. A large piece of furniture partially obstructing
a door (Work No. 253) has you wondering if it's bad etiquette
to squeeze past it, when it looks like it could just be a boardroom
table from the Arts Centre moved into a different position.
This is not minimalism about art. It makes
you aware of your own self-consciousness in grappling with the
abstraction that is nothing. A piece of neon that says nothing
in particular is capable of making you laugh. Anyone thinking
Creed is taking the piss is wrongly assuming that walking into
a gallery necessitates always taking art so terribly seriously.
If art reflects life it needs its tongue ambiguously in its cheek
somtimes. And wheeling out the old 'is it art?' would be missing
the point as usual. Creed is asking the eternal question 'What
can I do?'
If there is an answer, it may be a short
one, for in a world where so many man-hours of peace talks achieve
so little peace, and so many lifetimes of research only mine
the tiniest areas of knowledge, perhaps the little that can be
done is Creed's minimalism. Isn't it better to laugh about this
Martin Creed Works
is at Camden Arts Centre, Arkwright Road, London NW3 6DG until
14th January 2001 - Tel: 020 7435 2643/5224
photography copyright Jeff Lee 2000.