Martin Creed’s most recent installation for the Edinburgh International Festival is an insight into his meandering mind, almost like witnessing a visual slicing of the head, a gush of thoughts pouring out onto a performance stage. With his most recent piece, Martin Creed’s Words and Music, the Turner Prize winning artist gives us an insight into his eccentric, surreal, procrastinating habits in a set that evokes his anguish and frustration, yet also demonstrates his talents as he presents us with vocal ramblings involving wordplay and song.
Now, if you were to listen to Martin Creed speak you would be surprised to realise that he was born in Wakefield, England. He moved with his family to Glasgow at age 3 when his silversmith father got a job teaching there. He attended Lenzie Academy, and studied art at the Slade School of Art at University College London from 1986 to 1990. Since then he has famously created “Everything is Going to be Alright” on the façade of the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art and was commissioned by the Fruitmarket Gallery in the restoration of the Scotsman Steps both in Edinburgh, and won the Turner Prize in 2001 for Work No. 227: The lights going on and off, which was an empty room in which the lights switched on and off at 5-second intervals.
He has not only created visual art installations however. He has also choreographed ballet and more relevantly, recorded albums of songs, some of which feature in this show in The Studio. Looking somewhat between John Byrne and Albert Einstein, he took to the stage for the EIF whilst the words “Yes” and “No” were alternating on the screen. Confessing that he has issues with both of these words being so stark opposite with no middle ground, he invented a new word, “Nosey”, by combining the two. He relates these words to the matter of the night, being keen to say “yes” to performing here in Edinburgh but when it came to the night, partially wishing he had said “no,” a feeling we are all familiar with. And this is not the only instance where he makes things relative in this show.
He goes into a typically well-versed blether about feelings and how words cannot be used to describe these things which are fighting in our brains, shaping our everyday experiences, which is why he turns to music. With puckish humour, he plays us several songs including Thinking/Not Thinking and Understanding, which is related to one of his New York art installations. Several years ago, the Creed was commissioned to create one of his neon sculptures in a park in the city and came up with the slogan “Peace, Love and Understanding”. He had to choose one word from the three and wittily went for Understanding, as it was raised where people would stand under it, highlighting more of this playful absurdity. And the rest of the night continues along this line, with some leaving the room, perhaps with little notion of the art of Martin Creed.
Photos courtesy of Beth Chalmers.
If your brain can cope with his eccentricity.
Martin Creed’s Words and Music runs at the Studio, Edinburgh, until 27 August. Box office: 0131-473 2000.