Martin Creed: What's the point of it?


Visually, aurally, this exhibition is very pleasing, as evidenced by the number of children who, upon finding themselves in a contemporary art gallery on a beautiful summer day nevertheless seem to be fully enjoying themselves. The exhibition as a whole, like the show's title, is a bit like a Zen koan, simultaneously an ambiguous and seemingly unanswerable question that nevertheless elicits a response.

What is the point of art generally, or Creed's art specifically? The work that goes closest to answering this is certainly the most groan inducing one in the show. As you are just about to leave the gallery space for the obligatory gift shop visit, you are assaulted by a video of a woman taking a shit on a gallery floor. On the one hand the exhibition seems to be making a claim that art is an involuntary reflex. (Why did troglodytes paint their caves? Perhaps they had no choice.) But this point is somewhat undermined by the visible effort required of the woman in order to produce the turd.

Art may be involuntary, but it is also contrived. Much of the exhibition seems to be playing with this: a playful yet self-conscious cleverness. It is as if Creed knows he is clever, yet feels himself not quite clever enough - he can't quite believe he is getting away with it either. The real achievement of the exhibition is that despite of all this self-doubt, (despite even the video of the shitting woman), the show maintains a tremendously positive energy and the pleasure of time well spent.

What's the Point of It? is at the Hayward Gallery until the 5th of May, 2014.

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