What’s The Point of It? is Turner Prize winner, Martin Creed‘s, first major retrospective at the Hayward Gallery, 29 Jan – 27 April 2014. As part of the programme of events surrounding this exhibition, Creed hosted an evening talk about his work and life in general.
It is important for me to begin by stating that I purposefully didn’t view Creed’s retrospective prior to the talk with the intention of exploring the relationship between an Artist’s talk and live exhibition. Without the exploration into a proper definition, you’d assume that an Artist’s talk usually consists of an insight into the practice and experiences of the artist in question, perhaps with more detail about projects they are working on or a commentary of the exhibition. Creed did not attempt to meet any of these assumptions where it was announced that, “the performance will be starting in ten minutes”. This created a confusion between whether it was purely an ironic mis wording by the gallery or if there was actually a performative element to the talk itself.
The talk began with Hayward Gallery Curator, Cliff Lawson, entering the stage in the Purcell Room to introduce Creed. Lawson began with a typical introduction to the success of Creed’s career and brief insight into his practice, which all seemed very ironic considering the success of his practice is apparent in the context of the retrospective, but none-the-less we were all informed of Creed’s presence in many noteworthy galleries and wealthy cities. As an active and successful member of the art world, Creed is an artist I have always been aware of, yet admittedly I know very little. This was even more obvious to me once I discovered he was the awkward character stood behind the curator for fifteen minutes whilst he was introducing him by a more eloquent version of his CV.
I have only experienced Andrea Fraser in conversation at the Tate Modern prior to this, and while this shaped my expectations, Creed’s talk was so alien in comparison. It caused me to feel detached, particularly since I was unaware of the extension of his practice into music. This poses the question of who the artist talk is directed to: is it Creed who is assuming the audience knows his work in detail, or does it allow people to discover more from an artist they know little about, or a middle-ground between both? It is these particular intimations that I was curious to unveil in order to question whether Artist’s talks are composed with an existing knowledge of their practice in mind, which I found became quickly answered as the talk progressed. Creed’s presence further contributed to this uncertainty, as his slap-dash charisma was not as you’d expect– his talk appeared quite awkward, almost as if public speaking was not a strength of his. Audience members picked up on this and consequently began forming questions as a way to structure the gawky ambience in the room. This resulted in some very profound questions, probing the artist for a definitive insight about certain works which produced an almost grovelling situation where the audience members became a comforting mother to Creed as the child with two left feet.
It was the lack of visual description around the work which separated me the most and this is when I began to connect the least with the partnership exhibition and the works within it.Questions were asked about the ‘work where the lights went on and off’ and the ‘mothers piece’ which – without basic assumption of what they were – I couldn’t mentally participate in the discussion around these works. I suppose that without projecting my own personal ideals onto the talk, even on a very primitive level there should have been some supporting images provided to illustrate any discussion – even if I had known about the works spoken about, it is always a refreshing optical addition to see the work as it is often assumed that those present had seen the exhibition or know his work.
Speaking of this talk retrospectively and in comparison to Andrea Fraser’s, I came to conclusion that Creed’s talk exists only very loosely amongst knowledge about his exhibition. In the case of Andrea Fraser, my familiarity with certain works provided me with the insight to access works I did not know, which were presented by Fraser in image form, videos or a vivid description, creating a strong overview of her practice as whole and the importance of the works in relation to each other. It is safe to say that it is unlikely for someone to attend an artist’s talk without prior knowledge of the said exhibition or elements of their practice and in this instance my lack of this awareness resulted in a feeling of exclusivism towards Creed’s practice as a whole. Unless I had seen What’s the Point of It? preceding the talk, I was not invited to see a brief overview of Creed’s practice, ideas or external works for it felt more of a fan-show for all those who knew about these beforehand.
Written By Catrin Andrews