Tuesday 7 August 2007

Rigorous geometry

Martin Creed: Hauser & Wirth Coppermill, London

One wall is converted into a dramatic canvas of coarse black and white diagonal stripes, and this offsets a gigantic cast iron I-beam that radiates away from it into the centre of the space, and enhances the existing architectural forms. Another diagonal is provided on this day (as on the opening night) by a column of chairs occupied by musicians facing a conductor on a dais. The players, all with different instruments, are directed in a series of rhythmic phrases interspersed with silence.

Periodically, the lights dim, and the line of musicians becomes a column of light, while an enormous screen behind the conductor’s head is filled with a close-up of a couple copulating. All that is visible is a monochrome penis disappearing between female buttocks in a slow unhurried rhythm. It has been said that our musical forms are derived from, and conditioned by, the rhythm of bipedal walking. Here the musical tempo reflects another, even more primitive and fundamental aspect of our biology. The film was mentioned in an embarrassed manner in many early reviews, but while this is a surprising image, and is certainly sexually explicit, this is not pornography. It is less corrupting that a glimpse of the cover of the latest celebrity love-in or botched liposuction magazine, and less disturbing than the artist’s recent video of people vomiting.

Other pieces have been arranged within the space: a large plywood sculpture offsets the I-beam; a yellow neon ‘friends’ sign flashes slowly on and off; a line of nails in the wall cast more diagonal shadows, next to a portrait of a girl with green hair.

The nails bring a surprising touch of delicacy, the film connects with our human essence, and the neon reflects the seductive falseness of contemporary life, although the significance of the green-haired woman is less clear. The press release talks of Martin Creed’s interest in ‘rigorous geometry and rhythmic structures’. The show reflects this, and my impression was one of simple strong lines and forms, rhythms and textures that interact in a complex and involving way.


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