Martin Creed: Variety Show

About the Exhibition

When I’m doing music work I want to do visual work, and when I’m doing visual work I want to do music work. For me they are more or less the same, in both being things I try to do. I like them both. I like listening to music when I’m making things, and I like looking at things when I’m playing music.” —Martin Creed

Taking the New York stage for just two nights, Martin Creed (b.1968, Wakefield, England) and his band of musicians and dancers perform a show that is part music concert, part theater, part talk and part dance. Best known as a visual artist, Martin Creed’s wide-ranging art is characterized by its inimitable blend of pop, absurdity, deadpan humor and pathos. His engaging artworks are at once modest and provocative. Their straightforward appeal and unassuming nature is perhaps best summed up by a text piece, first exhibited in 2000, which reads “the whole world + the work = the whole world.” His gallery installations and events often upend the traditional formality of viewing art, using the simplest of means. In one his best known installations, Work no. 200: half the air in a given space (1998), a gallery was filled with party balloons containing exactly half the air in the room, enveloping the viewer with festive surroundings that contrasted with the work’s spare title. His works often incorporate mechanical and human sounds, like amplified metronomes beating time or a grand piano banging its lid open and shut.

Creed’s songwriting, musical compositions, performances and lectures have run parallel to his visual work, and have been a major aspect of his creative output since the beginning of his career in the late 1980s. He has noted that he first began performing for the same reason he began making sculpture: out of “the desire to say hello, to try to communicate somehow.” Creed’s sculptures, installations and drawings come from the objects, words, and sounds of everyday life; his music, similarly, maximizes basic building blocks to make songs and compositions that are stripped-down yet upbeat and playful, their lyrics elemental and entertaining.

The variety show, an old-style theatrical genre, is predictably unpredictable and all-inclusive, offering Creed a place to combine words, music and the visual—a fittingly open-ended platform for his constantly inquisitive and imaginative expression, and a chance, as he says, “to try to put everything in it.” Having performed variations of the show in London, Edinburgh and New Zealand, Creed and his band now present it in the U.S. for the first time. The show’s format is fluid—improvised around a basic structure—and much of Creed’s New York performance will be determined in the days leading up to the event.

Presented by the Public Art Fund.



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