Martin Creed

Definitely Maybe

Martin Creed may not know what he wants to make, but he sure as hell knows that he wants to make it.

By Peter Hill

What havoc could a playfully subversive mind like Martin Creed’s wreak on a Skype connection between Australia and New Zealand? “The Skype goes on, the Skype goes off,” I thought to myself as I waited for his image to appear. Hairier and more grizzled than I last remembered him, it was almost 15 years ago that he won the Turner Prize with his minimally absurd Work No. 227, The Lights Going On And Off at Tate Britain. It did just that. The art world and the popular press are still divided on its classification as ‘art’, with no middle ground between the dark and the light.

Three years before his Turner win, he’d produced one of his seminal works at the 1998 Biennale of Sydney (curated by Jonathon Watkins around the theme of the everyday). Creed was the main drawcard on Goat Island, before Cockatoo Island extended the bestiary of Sydney Harbour’s offshore art venues. Quite simply, he filled an entire house with pale coloured balloons, and gave visitors permission to wade through or dive-bomb into them. New York dealers, Newtown art students, and plenty of five-year-olds queued up to do just that. Laughter and play had entered the late 20th century art world, as young curators spawned even younger children and looked for ways to entertain them in the workplace.

A similar version of this piece was installed in his mammoth exhibition at London’s Hayward Gallery last year. Seventeen years later, it still pulled the crowds and divided the critics. I was there in some kind ... Subscribe to read this article in full

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