You have exactly one month to book tickets here and hotfoot it to the Hayward Gallery on the Southbank to catch the final 30 days of Martin Creed’s exhibition, What’s The Point Of It?
Creed won the Turner Prize back in 2001; he has spent the past 25 years confounding the traditional direction of art, transforming everyday objects and materials into “meditations on existence and the invisible structures that shape our lives”. This is his first major exhibition, and contains a very eclectic mix of works.
Those of you who have read my review of Chihuly at the Halcyon Gallery will know that I like my art accessible, with no requirement for any great philosophising to ‘get it’. Creed’s pieces, on the contrary, do take a bit of thinking to understand. But then one man’s ball of crumpled paper is another man’s art, eh?
…or stacked cardboard boxes…
…or a malfunctioning Ford Focus that flaps it’s doors and wipers and blares the horn every now and then…
…or a film of someone being sick… [Yes you read that correctly.]
Some Blu-Tack kneaded, rolled into a ball, and depressed against a wall (1993) was a particular highlight for me… :p
Some of the works were certainly striking. The ginormous rotating neon MOTHERS structure is so huge it only just fits inside the gallery, and its variable speeds got a little perilous at times, as it flew around only a few inches above the heads of the tallest gallery-goers! “When you’re small, your mother is always really big, so it seemed like a good reason for this to be big… and scary,” says Creed. This was all within a room filled with ticking metronomes, all set to a different tempo, signifying the passage of time, without choosing at what speed the time should pass.
Creed likes neatness, so there are lots of examples of objects stacked in order of girth, or lined up in order of height: cacti, steel girders, boxes, chairs, toilet rolls… He also likes repetition, and this is a recurring motif in his work – be it the curtains opening and closing, opening and closing; or the lid of the white piano slowly opening – only to come crashing down, five times in a row, every 15 minutes; or the gallery lights that flick on and off, on and off.
And then there’s the balloons – Work No. 200, Half the air in a given space (1998). In the balloon room, Creed “packages and makes visible” the surrounding air by precisely measuring it and capturing half of it inside seven thousand white balloons.
A huge amount of fun (though not one for the claustrophobic), the balloons are enjoyably easy to move through – and to get lost in. Going way over your head, it’s like a different world – and you soon become so statically charged that sparks literally fly if you come into contact with anyone else!
We faffed about in the balloon room for ages, with Ciaran hilariously popping up in front of randoms and shouting “Smile!” (results below), as well as taking countless photos of each other (everyone looks photogenic in this setting!), and marveling at the static effects on your hair.
Until claustrophobia set in and it was time to escape.
Upon leaving the gallery, you’ll pass through the video room, showing a delightful piece titled ‘Sick and shit’. I don’t recommend hanging around for this one – the museum shop is far more enjoyable!
As I was recalling the whole experience to my mother that evening, she replied with, “Yes, but what’s the point of it?” – and that kind of summed it up: there was no real point. I wasn’t thinking about the artworks philosophically, but it was all rather enjoyable, just as it was.
What’s The Point Of It? would make a great date – so many random things to see and discuss, and then a proper ice breaking session in the balloon room.
When to visit?
The gallery gets super busy at weekends, and a queue can form for the balloon room as there’s no limit to how long you can spend in there. We went on a Thursday evening and it was fine with no queuing; the gallery is also open late (till 8pm) on Fridays. I’d recommend booking.
Any recommendations for where to eat and drink afterwards?
Two great spots within two minutes’ walk of the Hayward Gallery…
We hit Wahaca for tequila-based cocktails (£6). Although I’m a Wahaca veteran, I’d never visited the Southbank location before, and was impressed by the construction from shipping containers, with great views across the Thames.
For Great British food (akin to Tanner & Co) head for Canteen. Serving up honest, seasonal, comfort food, I was thoroughly impressed with what Canteen had to offer, and loved the interior design – which reminded me of a 1950s style office, with low booths and task lamps!
Unable to decide on a single dish, we shared a Scotch egg, Roast chicken salad with walnut & tarragon, and Macaroni cheese with slow roasted tomatoes & crispy bacon. Dessert was a delicious Orange marmalade bread & butter pudding with clotted cream ice cream – so good. Dinner for two, including wine and service, was £45.
Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, SE1 8XX
The Wahaca Southbank Experiment
Queen Elizabeth Hall, Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, SE1 8XX
Royal Festival Hall, Belvedere Road, SE1 8XX
Photos by me and Ciaran McCormick