Martin Creed is not at all surprising. He has situated himself on the razor’s edge, like so many other modernists have done. Whether or not they will cut the veins of their contemporary art – and do something vital – remains to be seen. Yet, what remains is nihilistic humbug. Their art is interesting sometimes, but more or less, bumbles its way to the gallery entrance.
In 2001, Creed won the Turner Prize for a work that was merely lights flicking on and off. Is he taking himself seriously? Obviously not, but some people might like to think that that is what makes Creed important. What I find very disturbing about this work is that it is completely detached from the human mind. Both from the artist and viewer. No creativity whatsoever was instilled into this work. When a person questioned Creed’s talent as an artist by throwing eggs at an empty room of one of his exhibits as a protest against his Turner Prize, declaring that, “painting is in danger of becoming an extinct skill in this country,” Creed saw fit to have a painting in all of his exhibits since. Really, that resembles a corporation responding to criticism of one of their products. There is no limit to what he would do to unknowingly stretch the definition of art to suit his minimalistic lens. He obviously thrives off of sensationalistic reactions towards his works. The only point that Creed and his like give to their works is to channel hatred towards it, like a really bad mirror of the worst that goes on in the modern day world apparently.
I must admit, Creed has given us all a good laugh. His works have a capacity to inform and enlighten the most dim-witted of creatures. But I wonder, what exactly are Creed’s motivations? Money? Oh surely, but I like to think that he has some greater ambition as well. He is a sly dog, but I have come to believe that his kind are actually trying to make a point. But their point is very much tied up with whatever the whole of the group is thinking. Their fashionable group has successfully made nonsensical art into high art, and it is nothing short of one of the greatest magic tricks of the last century. It seems that when Warhol was slapping down the dollar bills on the table, other artists followed suit like whimsical playboys. It seemed chic to make a difficult point by stretching the boundaries of what really can be considered art. And it was/is, maybe, a logical point in terms of art history. After the advent of photography, art was bound to go down into dark forests where immoral and dangerous creatures lurked. (Maybe with a guy with a pointy, mad mustache to top off the madness). The problem is, however, that contemporary art suffers a real qualitative problem. How can one compare the likes of Creed to Rubens? It’s like comparing what a car costs in 2014 to what your average car cost in 1934. It may be possible to see Creed as a natural extension of the Old Masters (for innovation will always happen, just what type of innovation?), but that does not mean I will never be able to get the absurdity (inflation) out of my mind. As people know what came before Creed, Warhol, Duchamp, etc., then some of us may never be able to grasp those artists.
Creed is not making an effort to judge what he puts into an artwork. His work is impossible to figure out, that the viewer will surely realize. What he tries to do is to make an artwork that is devoid of judgement. He does not attempt to delve into a deep artistic theory, because he finds that leaving a viewer to their own devices, to fret out their own interpretation of one of his own masterpieces, will surely result in a more free experience. Much like the notion of free love in the socially turbulent 1960’s, we have free, “open” interpretations in art today. But having a vague artistic opinion is like having an opinion on a free lunch. It probably won’t be that good. And no one is going to have any remote idea what they are talking about because the work does not have any sign of representation. But again, this mindset is not shocking. To some modernists like Creed, making a judgement would be to practically close all the possibility around oneself. But the problem with that thinking is that it defeats itself. To not make a judgement would be to not be honest, which is surely the same as closing all the possibility around oneself. And I think it is safe to say that honesty is a quality which contemporary times would rather have more of, than less of. In the end what do we have? Garish “works of art” that are more like playthings of a failed experiment.
I cannot look at people like Creed as the avant-garde, because I wholeheartedly think that their is nothing forward minded about them. As Clement Greenberg famously expounded in his 1939 essay, “Avant-Garde and Kitsch,” the avant-garde should and was historically, repulsive of mainstream culture. However, artists like Creed are embracing this dumbing down of art. Case in point, how does one actually read a work that is merely lights flicking on and off? The fact is, you can’t. It’s like telling someone to read a book when there are no words. In this case, there are no telling visual representations of a person or object in Creed’s most well known works.
Honestly, I am left thinking to myself, “Is that all?” There just does not seem to be much else to say about this mountebank.