What’s the point of it?

Have you ever been with a group of people and everybody is laughing at a joke you just don’t find as funny as they do?  I’ve felt a bit like that about the Martin Creed exhibition just ended at the Hayward Gallery.

“What did you think of Martin Creed?”

“Oh I adored it – absolutely hilarious – just love his work.”

That it seems is the common reaction, at least among art students. The exhibition was due to close in April but so many people wanted to see it, the Hayward extended it until 5 May. So why was I not bowled over? I have not written about it before because I have been thinking about precisely that

It wasn’t that I hated it. There were good bits, but there was an awful lot that seemed not particularly good and even rather derivative. Apparently Martin Creed likes to avoid making judgements so he throws everything into the mix. But surely artists need to make judgements. I was once told that the public judge art by the piece they consider to be the worst. Perhaps that was what I was doing – perhaps that is wrong.  (But what about  those little watercolour portraits? They didn’t seem very good to me) No, I’m getting negative. Let’s look at the best.

I did like the Balloon Room. Half the Air in a Given Space. It comprised a room half  filled with white balloons where you could get lost in a moment, and possibly discover an abandoned seven-year old. Partly claustrophobic, partly liberating, you are effectively invited to play. It was an unusual experience; there are not many exhibitions which make your hair literally stand on end (it’s the static electricity). Indeed along with the white balloons there seemed to be many wisps of differently coloured hair which had somehow become unattached from their rightful owners. Possibly the enjoyment was that more normally associated with the fairground than the art gallery, but none the worse for that.  If so minded you could bang on about how it reminded you of the fragility of life, or at least of hair. But it is definitely an experience I will remember and that alone made it just about worth the entrance fee.

I also quite liked the 1,000 versions of the broccoli tree. Repetition in art proves itself to be effective time and time again. I begin to wonder whether if you repeat anything enough times it would begin to seem significant. Does sheer quantity of an image make it interesting?  I am not sure. Try it with a random list of nouns. There are few, it seems, that if you strung enough together would not make a plausible work of art.

Strangely I liked the perfect little cube of Elastoplast and the display of different sorts of light bulbs though it did look as though it might have been lifted from a lighting shop. I really liked the boob-like sculptures that jutted out of one of the walls. These were interesting because it was so difficult to focus on what you were seeing.


There were the out of sync metronomes. The noise they made was undoubtedly irritating. Irritation is an emotion. I had an emotional response. I have seen clocks ticking at different times;  I think that was Ian Breakwell;  there have been others as well. There are even a number of similarly out of sync metronomes on show in the foyer of the University of Brighton at the moment.

Perhaps I have been to too many health and safety briefings but the revolving neon sign, Mothers worried me. It was very low; I could easily put my hand up and touch it. It was going round very fast. Did the very tall receive a personal health warning? Would it have magically stopped if it had sensed a head in the way? Would a flying head have been performance art?

I was similarly worried about the vomiting girl. This thankfully was a video not the real thing. The contrast between the vomiting and the starkness of the pure white backdrop was striking. But what was the mechanism by which she had been induced to vomit on cue? Was she well paid for her pains?  I hope so. How did she feel afterwards? I did not wait for the defecating person. Really, if you have ever been around small children you do get quite a lot of experience of that kind of thing, though it is, of course, all an aspect of life.



The car – what about the car? This was given to me by a fellow student as an example of the hilarious. It is an ordinary enough looking car and then the doors and the boot opens, the lights come on, the radio sounds. It looks for all the world like an advertisement of – a car. According to the Hayward blurb it is a Ford Focus car – the UK’s best selling car.

Then there were the boxes; cube boxes piled up on top of each; and chairs – chairs also piled up. Indeed things piled up was a recurring theme; tables, other stuff, bricks, wood. I have already seen a lot of piled boxes. People have been piling things since Carl Andre started it with Equivalent VIII.

The exhibition was called What’s the Point of it ? I suppose rather than look at each work individually, it should rather be regarded as a whole installation. Perhaps the point is that there is no point – to what? to life?  Things just happen. Is that enough of a point? At the time I felt not, but maybe.  Life is unsatisfactory.  But art, unlike life, can be edited, I  know I would have rated it more highly if Creed had been more selective.

All the same, the balloons were good.

Painting with light

I defy even the most hardened hater of contemporary art not to enjoy Light Show now showing at the Hayward Gallery. It is like a theme park for adults, although, coming to think of it,  I’m sure most children would love it too. It has all the colour and all the fun of the fair and it doesn’t jiggle you about, except perhaps your eyes a bit, and it doesn’t turn you upside down, well only figuratively. There are over 20 works in the exhibition; these are just a few of them. Do go and see it and take an art hating friend.

Cylinfder II at the Hayward Gallery
Leo Villareal: Cylinder II

Leo Villareal’s Cylinder II does everything you want it to; the lights change in complex ways so that you are constantly seeing different patterns and combinations. As there are 19,000 of them, there is apparently no fixed sequence and no beginning or end. Satisfyingly they also reflect in the glass balustrades of the walkways turning them into artworks as well.

A splodge of light like paint from a tin is projected on the floor of the Hayward Gallery
Ceal Floyer: Throw

Ceal Floyer’s Throw is an extraordinarily simple concept but also hugely effective. A splodge of light is projected on the floor like fallen paint from a tin. If you can paint with light, it stands to reason you can spill it too.

Francois Morellet: Lamentable
Francois Morellet: Lamentable

Over recent years, neons have increasingly found their way into art galleries but too often they appear a lazy form of art and the wires detract from the overall effect, but Francoisy Morellet’s Lamentable is extraordinarily elegant. It is apparently lamentable because the segments could form a circle but are hanging instead from a single point. I suppose it would have been too immodest to call it Magnifique

Cerith Wyn Evans
Cerith Wyn Evans: Superstructure

I first saw Cerith Wyn Evans’ Superstructure at the De La Warr Pavilion on a freezing cold day when the fact that the pillars alternatively lit up and radiated heat was especially welcome. The only sculpture in the display that I noticed used heat, it made me wonder, as it had before, how else heat could be incorporated into artworks. I also wondered, rather prosaically perhaps, about the cost of the electricity bill.

People stand looking as Conrad Shawcross sculpture casts shadows in the Hayward Gallery
Conrad Shawcross: Slow Arc Inside a Cube IV
Shadows on the ceiling cast by Slow Arc Inside a Cube IV
Shadows on the ceiling cast by Slow Arc Inside a Cube IV

I mentioned that the exhibition was like a theme park and one of the effects of that, I found, was that my inner child increasingly wanted the artworks to do tricks – to move, to heat up or at least to flicker. This one, Slow Arc Inside a Cube IV by Conrad Shawcross, therefore really performed; a moving light revolving in this intricate grid casts ever-changing shadows on the walls, floor  ceiling and viewers. It is apparently about the process of mapping the molecular structure of insulin  by crystal radiography. You don’t need to know that to enjoy it; the changing patterns are themselves mesmerising.

Three figures stand in Carlos Crusz-Diez's Chromosaturation in the Hayward Gallery
Carlos Cruz-Diez: Chromosaturation

Carlos Cruz-Diez has created 84 Chromosaturation installations to date; about a year ago I saw one in Paris. I didn’t realise that time the way that it could cause visual disturbances I was just struck by the colours.  This time I gave it long enough and began to experience the colour in a different way and see it as more solid and somehow filling the space, like floaters in the eye – or perhaps I became aware of floaters that were there all the time. The effect was not totally pleasant but certainly interesting.

Olafur Eliasson: Model for a Timeless Garden - fountains under strobe lighting
Olafur Eliasson: Model for a Timeless Garden

When it came to disturbed perceptions it was Olafur Eliasson’s Model for a Timeless Garden which was the clear winner. For once visitors to the exhibition were on their own to touch or not touch the artwork as they chose. No attendant could stay in the room very long. Eliasson who also created the Weather Project at Tate Modern in 2oo3, has illuminated a series of fountains with strobe lighting. The effect was to create a series of sculptures as the water was momentarily frozen in time, creating a series of different forms. It was fascinating but for me it had the effect of giving me a strange sensation in my ears. This seemed to have no rational reason – my eyes I could have understood, but why the ears? Not only contemporary but surreal.

Light Show is showing at the Hayward Gallery until 28 April 2013

Psst – want to buy a stolen Warhol

English: Andy Warhol
English: Andy Warhol (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I did something today I have never done before – I nicked an exhibit from a gallery – the Hayward Gallery to be precise. It was partly a mistake I had thought it was a genuine Andy Warhol invisible sculpture on display in the exhibition  Invisible: Art of the Unseen. But I now find it is a 2012 copy of the original 1985 work.

I’ll tell you how it happened. I had walked most of the way round the exhibition. I had seen the work of Yves Klein and how he had sold inanimate zones for gold. I had seen the poems of Yoko Ono, which are instructions on how to make an art work; I had considered the works of Robert Barry who released two cubic feet of helium into the atmosphere to create an invisible  sculpture. I had seen the 2012 work by Bruno Jakob Unusual Things Happen, made of ” invisible paper, brainwaves, energy, light, touch, hot steam water, time seasons, worries collecting and releasing, unknown technique on yellow primed unseen canvas and paper roll.” I had reflected that invisible art was a bit more interesting than you might think.

Then I saw the invisible Andy Warhol and I wanted it – I wanted my very own invisible sculpture and so I took it. I must say the security at the Hayward is lax in the extreme. Although I took the sculpture right under the nose of an attendant and watched by a member of the public nobody tried to stop me walking out with it. A photographer did happen to take my photograph outside the Hayward as I was trying to get the sculpture in my handbag. Invisible sculptures can be surprisingly heavy. The photographer sent me the photograph and is now trying to blackmail me but I will not be blackmailed which is why I am showing the photograph here. I was proud to have taken the Warhol; it is a protest at the escalating cost of university tuition fees

But once I got the sculpture home, I did some  research and found that is was not as I had assumed a genuine 1985 Warhol but a modern copy. So I have decided to sell. It is still  a very fine work crafted by genuine artists at the Hayward; I am selling the sculpture on eBay should you want it. Look how nice it looks on a tasteful plinth . Would you not like it yourself? It is being sold without reserve, though the buy it now price is £500. This is amazingly reasonable for this substantial work. Should the police come calling the sculpture is easy to hide. So the Hayward cannot accuse you of taking it yourself, I am also throwing in a signed confession by myself – written in invisible ink.