BELFAST FESTIVAL 2010: Martin Creed
Turner Prize-winning artist to perform with Belfast duo at the Belfast Festival
In 2001 Martin Creed won the Turner Prize for an installation entitled 'The Lights Going On and Off'. The piece consists of a room, in which the lights go on and off. Creed accepted the £20,000 prize, awarded by Madonna, while art-world traditionalists shook their heads in disbelief.
Creed is a multi-disciplinary artist producing dance pieces, films, photography, and music. With an international reputation, in the last 20 years he has held solo exhibitions and participated in group shows in the USA, Australia, Korea, and Glasgow, his home city.
At the Belfast Festival, his band shares billing with guitar and drums duo the Continuous Battle of Order, on a barge at Lanyon Quay. In conversation it's hard to tell if he’s very thoughtful or very vague, or simply very calm. But the Scottish accent makes every sentence endearing.
He describes the award as like winning a prize at school, as if he had pleased the teachers and parents, allowing more confidence in subsequent work. 'The prize came after years of doing many, many exhibits. I tried to start again as if I'd never done anything before. If anything the Turner Prize is now part of the mainstream. So I think it's just helped, really.'
Pieces following 'The Lights Going On and Off' include 'All the Bells in a City or Town Rung as Quickly and as Loudly as Possible for Three Minutes' in San Juan, 'Sick Film', launched in London, and 'Ballet' (work 1020) with Traverse Theatre, as part of the 2010 Edinburgh Festival.
Each of Creed's pieces are numbered, irrespective of medium. His band's records include 'Words' (work 332), 'Fuck Off' (work 337), and 'Thinking/Not Thinking' (work 431). What unites all the work, he says, is that it's been created by the same person.
'For me, it's the fact that I did them. That's what unites them for me. Sometimes I feel like I'm just trying to do something simple, to understand something and put it in a simple way. Trying to do something that I can live with. I think oftentimes trying to do something simple cuts away the superfluous. Because the world's quite confusing and difficult to live in as it is.'
Like Creed's band, Belfast's Continuous Battle of Order number their songs. That's the extent of it though; debut album 'Pattern Seekers' runs from 001 to 006. There are eight tracks; the first and third songs are split into two for a stormy introduction, and a drumming crescendo.
Over the last few years guitarist Hornby and drummer Craig Kearney have collaborated with different artists in different ways. Hornby teamed up with tattooist Helen McDonnell at Catalyst Arts, while Kearney has taken on last-minute drum duty with Japanese musician Damo Suzuki at the Black Box. Hornby follows the Turner Prize. Kearney's assessment of modern art differs.
'Generally I have no concern for art at all,' he says. 'Except for people like Philippe Starck, and the Eames brothers, and the Bauhaus movement. I like things that have function and form, and reason. So the Eames chairs or Philippe Starck kitchen utensils have a massive appeal. That's true art, as far as I'm concerned. It fills an aesthetic function and a normal function.
'I have nothing but disdain for people like Tracey Emin. Frankly, even if I were to meet the woman drunk in a bar I wouldn't want to look at her unmade bed. So how she dares pretend that's a piece of art, then hides behind "individual interpretation"... In fact we're just looking at someone's unmade bed, in a room. As in music, as in art, people need a healthy injection of wise the hell up.'
Hornby disagrees. 'While I agree certain art is pointless, it is just an opinion. A simple fact: art is whatever the artist says it is.'
'But,' says Kearney, 'that's just like saying "anything is whatever I want it to be". It's indulgence. Look at the classical painters, painters whose paintings hang in galleries all over the world. Imagine they'd had a commission for the Queen's centenary and been the first to indulge themselves, presenting their unmade bed. They'd have been killed! Tolerance has bred a society that accepts stupid things as something they're not. And I just don't like it.'
Martin Creed performs with the Continuous Battle of Order and DJ Stuart Wilson on the Belfast Barge, Lanyon Quay, on October 23. Click here for tickets and further information.