Saturday, 15 February 2014


Martin Creed   The lights going on and off 2000
Photo: Tate Photography    © Martin Creed

TATE BRITAIN - THE ARTIST'S ROOM until April 20th 2014

'Every picture tells a story...' But not in this case. Side by side we have two images of the same room, one with the lights on, the other off. How exciting is that? 

Martin Creed asks us to question everyday actions and expectations. Here, in a national art gallery we are standing in an empty room. Although Tate Britain and Tate Modern have a monumental collection of works of art, not a single painting or sculpture or installation is to be found. Instead the artist has adapted existing light fittings to fill the space with a perpetual cycle of movement between light and darkness every five seconds. 

He's challenging our idea of 'on display'. We expect art to be there in the gallery, dumb, passive, awaiting our judgement, our understanding and appreciation. Someone has probably spent hours, years, a lifetime in its creation. Someone else has decided that it is worth all that. Here we are invited to ask if art can be produced by doing almost nothing at all, just switching some light fittings, which is not beyond the capability of many people.

The room floods with light, then goes dark. Is that all? Our sense of time and space is disrupted.  We become aware of our presence in the room.  What is the protocol? We question our role as viewer. And what can we reasonably expect from the artist? He has commented 'My work is 50% what I make and 50% what the viewer makes of it'.

Martin Creed’s output is diverse. The Lights Going On And Off  was shown when Creed won the Turner Prize in 2001.  At Tate Britain in 2008 he presented the Duveen Commission Work No. 850. Every 30 seconds a person ran as fast as they could through the entire length of the Duveen galleries. Each run was followed by an equivalent pause, during which the gallery was empty.

Until April 27th 2014 the Hayward Gallery at the Southbank is showing What The Point Of It?,  ‘the first major survey of Turner Prize-winning artist Martin Creed’s playful, thought-provoking art’. You will need a ticket for this. 

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