and the point of it is

Fun. Play. Inquisitiveness. Encountering the everyday at an odd angle. Provocation. Or no point at all, IT just IS. And the ‘it’? Art. Specifically, the Martin Creed retrospective What’s the point of it? at the Hayward Gallery, which we visited on Thursday evening. Although some of the work was familiar to me, there was a sense of discovery as we wandered through the rooms, and after a rather frazzled working week, I loved the playfulness and quirkiness evident in so many pieces. The first room was dominated by a huge neon sign MOTHERS, mounted on an iron girder, and revolving at varying speeds. We couldn’t help ducking as it swept menacingly over our heads. On a smaller scale, set out on the floor around the edges of the first room, Work No. 112 Thirty-nine metronomes beating time, one at every speed – tick-tocking their little lives away. Time, sound, music – some of the themes and media Creed explores in his work. I hesitated to enter Work No. 200 Half the air in a given space – a glass-walled room full to bursting (so it seemed to me) with inflated white balloons. I’m a little claustrophobic. The invigilator pointed out the signs on the ceiling directing participants back to the exit, so I took a deep breath, held on tightly to Nick’s hand and we pushed our way into the installation. Batting balloons away to create space around our heads; hearing but not seeing other people nearby; my hair flying out in all directions as it clung to the surrounding balloons; the smell of rubber and an occasional sharp bang as a balloon popped. I didn’t panic but I did feel on edge, and was glad to wade towards the exit after a few minutes. Elsewhere, the colourful series of broccoli prints (an amusing variation on potato prints) would probably induce similar unease in brassica-phobes. In the same room, Creed’s Turner Prize-winning Work No. 227 The lights going on and off quietly and subtly did its thing. Creed investigates pattern and repetition, intervenes in the gallery space with his protrusions and indentations, plays with language in neon signs and conceptual instructions; questions, in other words, what art is, what it is for. And the answers are multiple and never definitive. For me, on that day, in my particular emotional state, the point of it was seeing art – creativity – the possibility of creativity – everywhere, in all people. And not being too serious about it, at least some of the time.

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