Martin Creed has won this years Turner Prize in England.
December 10, 2001 4:58 AM   Subscribe

Martin Creed has won this years Turner Prize in England. I can hardly contain my disbelief. Is this worth £20000 of anyones money?
posted by kramer_101 (32 comments total)
I consider myself a modern and open minded kind of guy. Even a "quick adopter" to take on a marketing term. But this is simply senseless in my opinion, the guy couldn't even explain it!!! I feel saddened that this kind of skill-less meta-meaning is considered of any worth in a modern, imaginitive society. A society that I, on the whole, am glad to be part of.
posted by kramer_101 at 5:03 AM on December 10, 2001

Is this worth £20000 of anyones money?

Definitely not mine.
posted by walrus at 5:10 AM on December 10, 2001

Ah, I don't know. No, not really. I mean, yeah, it just seems like a... yeah, I don't know really. It's exciting to be a part of it, for sure... eh... and... aye.

/Tries not to laugh.

You know, if tables blocking entrances is high art, then my closet has to be like a whole new undiscovered masterpiece, but I wonder if it would be worth more is I was dead. These things usually are.
posted by tiaka at 5:26 AM on December 10, 2001

What about this for the stomach turner prize
posted by kramer_101 at 5:36 AM on December 10, 2001

He didn't deserve it, but not because, as you cultureless, uneducated heathens assume, his art is rubbish, but because it's not that interesting. It's raising the same old questions (and provoking the same predictable responses from people like your good selves) that conceptual art has worried about for years.

In contrast, Nelson's installation was great (and the TV coverage didn't do it justice). See my comment here
posted by andrew cooke at 5:54 AM on December 10, 2001

The only reason this piece won the prize was that it was the only 'controversial' piece nominated.

If the Turner Prize wasn't just a self congratulatory PR shockfest every couple of years (anyone remember that concrete cast of the inside of a house? No?), this man might have won, his installation at the exhibition was utterly brilliant and I recommend going to see it. Just remember to ignore the really annoying dodgy light bulb in the room before it.
posted by davehat at 5:55 AM on December 10, 2001

the klf had the right idea, all those moons ago.

On July 4th 1993 the K Foundation announced they would give a £40,000 prize to the worst artist of the year. By a strange coincidence the short-list for their prize matched the short-list for the UK Turner Prize for art.

i am all for making art popular, but i am not sure this helps. also madonna presented the award and c4 had graham norton, sophie ellis-bextor and dom joly in to drip their brilliance upon us. the only person missing was nathan barley .(caution linked page contains the word bunt, spelled differently)
posted by asok at 6:00 AM on December 10, 2001

I thought the point about 'coneptual' art was that, although anyone could do it. You were. You got up there, took the stick and explained what it meant to you.

The 'interesting' thing that this guy is doing is that he's not doing that. He's not explaining anything at all. Leaving it all to the viewer. Now that's a scary concept. He's just doing something that he says 'looks nice' and walking away, not taking any responsability for it. Add your own metaphor as to why this is like western culutre if you wish.

He still should not have won the prize, because it wasn't the best modern art made in Britian/the commonwealth this year. But he does seem to have an interesting concept behind him. I think he's going to go down as the anti-Hirst/Emin in art history. Whether it is judged to be a fatuous wrong turn or not is beside the point. He is doing something different and interesting.
posted by nedrichards at 6:29 AM on December 10, 2001

the guy couldn't even explain it!

He should not have to explain it. It should be about how the viewer feels about it. That said, I think his work is This is so rampant in the art world: empty conceptual art. There are interesting conceptual artists out there like Charles Ray and others. Unfortunately, junk like this just makes more and more people think that conceptual work is a total joke.
posted by anathema at 6:30 AM on December 10, 2001

I once said here in MeFi that art is "the creation of beautiful or significant things." I still believe that, but I also knew when I posted it, someday those words would come back to haunt me.

I've also said before that I acknowledge punk music as art, but it's art that is painted with one color and very broad paint strokes - it has no depth. Yet even though I subjectively don't like punk music, I still acknowledge it as art. I'm usually very open minded about this stuff.

I have a very broad working definition of what constitutes art for me, and this guy's even pushing my buttons. He puts a table part way through a door, and calls it art. His "work #127" isn't art. It's a very slow strobe light. It's a broken Clapper. Spam sculpting fits the definition of art better than "Lights Going On And Off."

"Of course... Creed is always having a gentle laugh in this way. He once exhibited a bit of Blu-tac stuck on a wall, alongside a crumpled up ball of paper and a table jutting through a door way. His work is just the sort of thing the Turner Prize presents well. It is subtle, and obvious, accessible and difficult all at the same time, while bashing you over the head with childlike delight in its witty tricks."

It is vague, yet in your face. It is easy to get to and yet hard to see. WTF??? So let me get this straight, anything that a critic can spend a paragraph elucidating gets money? Jesus! I'm in the wrong field of work. If I took all the books I own and piled them up on my front lawn and set them on fire, I'd be making a bigger artistic statement.

Who actually defines art? The Christian Science Monitor? Berkeley professors? Old Farts? Customs? Award programs? Anyone who's Gifted? Anyone who can take a Crap?

In utter desperation, I turn to How Stuff Works to enlighten me. "...there is a difference between a rock we happen to sit on and a rock we have dragged out of the woods and arranged in our garden with four other rocks, to make a circle of seats. The latter is a kind of art because we have chosen materials and assembled them in a way not merely useful but also somehow satisfying to us... A big part of art is intention. Art is art when it is declared as such."

If Martin Creed's efforts are art, then when a man intentionally sits all day on a porch sipping lemonade and watching cars rust, that's performance art.

I'm not sure if I can accept that.
posted by ZachsMind at 6:41 AM on December 10, 2001

Film-maker Julien was in the running, for his video of gay cowboys in a swimming pool...
posted by frednorman at 7:01 AM on December 10, 2001

I've just implemented my newest conceptual art piece, by the way. I call it "City of Los Angeles." It will be on display until further notice just south of Hollywood. Admission is free, but the artist takes no responsibilty for acts committed by current exhibit "residents." Remember, this is "City of Los Angeles," not my previous (and now defunct) work, "East L.A.", which has been overrun by people who are VERY enthusiastic about their claim on my exhibit.
posted by phalkin at 7:41 AM on December 10, 2001

Who defines art? These days, the market defines art. What else did you expect?
posted by andrew cooke at 7:42 AM on December 10, 2001

ha! this whole thing is a ridiculous farce, emperor's new clothes springs to mind.
posted by mokey at 7:44 AM on December 10, 2001

Simple crap.

It brings to mind a hack hired by my city to provide a piece of art for the courtyard of a government building. After dropping several hundred thousand dollars, this imbecile (the closest he came to having artistic talent was his ability to draw flies) presented us with two combed rocks. And after enduring the inevitable grumbling of a a population who did not want to underwrite his idiocy, like all haughty pseudo-intellectual buffoons, snorted to the press that these "hicks" simply lacked the proper aesthetic sensibilities to appreciate his glaring genius. Well, one councilman evidently did appreciate it. He recommended that the city erect a giant pooper-scooper right next to it.
posted by RavinDave at 8:17 AM on December 10, 2001

Zach, you just don't know anything about punk rock. Any art looks simple if you can't see the complexity.
posted by rodii at 8:19 AM on December 10, 2001

I know enough to know it's not my thing. I could climb a lighthouse and put my ears right up to the foghorn, and get the same enjoyment from that as I do punk. However, if you find complexity where I find... uh, well, noise... more power to you. I already said I acknowledge it as art. What more do you want from me? To call it good art?

How about a compromise? I have found some enjoyment from The Sex Pistols, The Ramones, and The Dead Kennedys, I acknowledge the efforts of those bands as good art. For me, those bands typify what punk should be, and all other copycat derivative bands pale in comparison. Bands trying to be like the Sex Pistols go against the very grain of what punk was about. Punk's not supposed to be complex and artsy. It's supposed to be loud and destructive. The Sex Pistols specifically were making powerful statements against their culture and environment. Their early stuff especially. When they got famous they became walking hypocrisy, which is rather amusing to research.

The problem is punk is not universal or versatile at all. True punk doesn't want to be but that's what limits it as an artform by design. Most punk (except for the bands I've already mentioned) is like playing one long note on a sousaphone. There's so much potential but there's no drive. However, when one tries to tap that potential, they cease being punk. Billy Idol and Iggy Pop are perfect examples. Trying to bring true punk into the pop mainstream effectively kills punk rock's sensibilities. It's like if there were a psychedelic rock tribute band who call themselves "Hippies For War." It dismisses the core in favor of the surface. The Ramones almost pulled it off. I bet most true punk fans think they sold out, but for me when they sold out that's when they started getting good.

I also think bands like They Might Be Giants and The Judys, though not necessarily punk, have some of the punk sensibilities. They use more than just anger to paint the aural canvas, so they go much further artistically than common, run-of-the-mill, angry, cacophonic, self-destructive punk.

Punkers look at the whole crayon box, pull out black, and start writing on the walls. One can make good art with just one color, but the spiritual muse of music demands more from its vessels. Punkers respond to that spiritual muse by flipping it off - an insult to the universe, and it's to their own detriment.
posted by ZachsMind at 9:12 AM on December 10, 2001

Like I said, you just don't know much about punk. I don't have a problem with that, I just don't think it makes you much good as a critic. I have the same reactions as you do (sousaphone) to Billy Joel, who you like. I think you would agree that I wouldn't be the first person you turn to for a discussion of the subtleties of Billy Joel?

I think, in fact, it's you who are overusing the black crayon. Punk was and is a lot more diverse than you allow, and even the three bands you lump together are pretty unalike, except for the loud fast short part.
posted by rodii at 9:41 AM on December 10, 2001

it's much easier to consider the merits of a piece if you don't get caught up in whether something is "art" or not.

Time spent on discussing whether something qualifies as art is a complete waste -- trust me, I've aggravated friends for hours and hours telling them that "art" had no clear definition, didn't exist, and was a bunch of crap. And then I stopped worrying about it and went to art school. From this I've learned a few things (though none of them has helped me get a job); one of which is that deciding something isn't art and therefore discounting it is somewhat of a pointless affair. Or at the very least a bad argument to undertake. We can argue in semantic circles for years about what art is and isn't -- just as we can, for example, constantly disagree about if a particular hue appears more blue or more green. Meanwhile, the hue still exists as what it is, and can be better measured in other ways.

Now, you can say "It's poorly done art" -- sure; but then you're left with the task of giving reasons why it's poorly done, instead of simply saying, "it's not art, so I don't need to think about it".

given that, I haven't seen enough of this guy's work to give an opinion. I do know I've been a big fan of many of the YBAs, mostly because many of them piss people off so extraordinarily -- and this is amusing.

Meanwhile, ZachsMind, John McNamara is one of the better art professors at Berkeley -- but he won't be the one to tell you what art is. Nor will the art history professors. They might tell you what they think good art is, and John can talk to you for a few hours about making art, if you're interested (and he's got quite a bit of good advice to say about that, particularly for painters.) but that's about all they're going to do. Notice the wording on the class description for Art 8 is "inform our beliefs about what constitutes ‘’art’’ -- not "formulate an immutable definition of art". You can try by the philosophy dept. there too -- they've got a course on "Philosophy of aesthetics" -- I don't think they'll tell you what "art" is either, though.

Who defines art?? Well, critics have a big hand in "defining" art, because they often have college credentials, and write big long essays, and this authority makes many people take what they have to say at face value. Because of this, a lot of people think "art" is described by objects that are "authentic" or "authorized" (ie, in a museum's permenent collection or chatted up by Robert Hughes or something), and only objects that reflect this sort of work can also be considered art. However, I think art critics are more useful for contrasting current work to that which exists within canon of art, since many people do not have enough of a grasp on the history of art to properly place things or compare things (and do critics always do a good job of this? no.) Thus, art critics really are more responsible for pointing out "movements" rather than defining art because not many of them are ambitious enough to take on a project that would seek to take the output of humans throughout their entire history and ascribe to it some sort of immutable shared characteristics.

To try and condense things a bit: there is no definition of art -- you can make one yourself, if you'd like, but it's like making up your own mathematical system -- unless other people subscribe to it, the things you are saying won't appear true to them. There isn't anything that's not art -- doesn't mean it's all good, or interesting, but there's nothing that can't be called art in some way or another.

I think andrew cooke gave the best (and most concise) response to this sort of inquiry right below the comment you linked. He points out that it would be nice to have a useful definition of art, but you aren't going to get one. It's like claiming to be able to know the shared character of every number that makes up infinity, and thus, be able to point out any number and say it's not a member. (disclaimer: I'm obviously not a mathematician, and I don't know the first thing about infinite sets. er, so there.)
posted by fishfucker at 10:01 AM on December 10, 2001

Cool. So how can I get a government grant to do a performance art piece about a man to intentionally sits on a porch with lemonade to watch cars rust? Actually, come to think of it I could write an entire play around that concept.
posted by ZachsMind at 10:40 AM on December 10, 2001

start writing grants. Keep in mind in the US it is VERY difficult to get money from the government for art, esp. after the NEA was gutted. Also keep in mind that if you think ANY of these artists are rich, you're wrong. Most of the currently showing YBAs are either on the dole or just squeaking by, and they live in Britan where there's lots of government money available for the arts. About 1% of the number of YBAs that get shows at prestigious galleries or museums (which is a pretty damn big deal!) could be called wealthy. The people find wealth through art are either a) dealers, or b) making watercolors or something and selling them to tourists/mainstream america (not that this makes it bad art, or that tourists/mainstream america has bad taste -- it's just this is where the money is.).

Meanwhile, if you seriously want a grant or a fellowship in the US, you'd better have a goodly amount of work behind you -- they don't just give money away to anyone. So; if you want a government grant to do performance art (which is unlikely: the government tends to like to spend money on real objects -- usually bad public art -- but, possible -- I mean, a museum might commision a performance piece from you.) then you need to start doing performance art -- and it's likely that you'll be doing it for many years without being paid. Oh -- also, if you want it to be interesting performance art you'll want to spend a hell of a lot of time on it -- say, all your time, and any money you can get from whatever crappy job you're working to pay the rent. Sound like fun yet? Now, to get the grant, I'm sure there's several competetions each year which you can enter. Because you're wanting to get money from the government (which typically, at some point, has to answer to a congressman who's had little experience with modern art) you're going to have to convince them that your project is more worthwhile for public funds then say, some boring (but patriotic!) statue of "STORM'N NORMAN SCHWARTZKOPF!" or whatever.

Or, I'd offer to help do the project for you for free. It doesn't sound like it would cost a lot of money. Lemonade, I'm guessing -- $20 - 40 -- right? You didn't really specify how long you'd be sitting on the porch, so I'm guessing it's not incredibly important, and I'm thinking you wouldn't be able to go more than two weeks anyway -- we could both take it out of PTO, so you'd be getting paid for it, in some sense of the word. We get some cameras, I film you, we edit it into a some decent documentation and then you're all set. We'd call it "Lemon-Aid" and all the cars would be Gremlins (we could get them donated). It doesn't sound like a horrible project; just a fairly incomplete one, but we'll work it out on the way. Then we do a couple more like that, and eventually, you might be have what it takes to merit a government grant or get a commission.

either way, you'd be really hard pressed to come up with a project I'm going to ridicule as having no potential for being an interesting piece. The lemonade thing could be interesting -- more particularly so if you got paid handsomely for it, as I'm guessing that's your point. Of course, this kind of "excessiveness/debauchery" in art-making has been already covered in some depth by the likes of many people. (I would say Koons is one, etc.)
posted by fishfucker at 11:16 AM on December 10, 2001

Cool. So how can I get a government grant to do a performance art piece about a man to intentionally sits on a porch with lemonade to watch cars rust? Actually, come to think of it I could write an entire play around that concept.

I think Samuel Beckett's already cornered the market in this kind of thing.
posted by Summer at 11:20 AM on December 10, 2001

I think it's successful if its goal is what is happening here. Getting people talking. You look in an empty room with lights turning off and on and it may mean nothing to you, makes you feel nothing, makes you wonder why anyone bothered. And is that art? And you look at something else that's just as mundane, just as ordinary, just as "non-creative" and wonder 'is that art?' And you get angry (express a feeling) or you wonder if you're not getting something (exploring) or you dismiss it outright and move on, all of which could be applied to any work by an artist. The monetary value of it is inconsequential except to those who can only value something by how much it costs.
posted by honkzilla at 11:38 AM on December 10, 2001

Anybody else following the "Blue Ball Three"/USA Today controversy? Writing in the sculpture's dust: that's participatory art, isn't it? (Romanesko)
posted by Carol Anne at 11:39 AM on December 10, 2001

that BBC article reads like an onion article.

art for me is intent, skill, emotion, aesthetics. My artistic endeavors are limited by my skills. Art that is mainly a good execution of an idea but is more psychology than art. Maybe. Ah hell. Who knows. my fiance and i spend lots of time debating various definitions.
posted by th3ph17 at 11:59 AM on December 10, 2001

"It doesn't sound like a horrible project; just a fairly incomplete one,"

If a room filled with broken clappers is not an incomplete concept, then "Lemon" is a complete concept. What is PTO?

And we'll call it "Lemon" cuz when we need to do a multimedia charity benefit to raise money using big name musicians and lots of press attention, we can call the benefit "Lemon-Aid." See? I'm thinking on my feet here.

Except for all the disappointing ramifications you detailed in order to deter me from following this project, I don't see anything particularly bad about it. Sounds like fun.

I see a fabrication of a front porch. A porch swing with a white-washed, raised platform. Just enough to help the viewer's mind see what we're going for, but we'll want to allow the viewer to fill in the gaps with their imagination. Most anyone has in their childhood a white porch where old folks sat and stared at nothing in particular for hours on end, talking about neighborhood gossip or whether or not Walter Cronkite was wearing a toupee. We want to tug on those memories and emotions. Maybe a fake window behind it, and perhaps a partial awning hanging from the ceiling, but not much more detail.

The porch swing is aimed at the Gremlin. Actually maybe it would be a more powerful statement if the car was something real cheap we stole from some junk yard. So rusted and deteriorated that it looks like the subject watching it rust has been doing so for a long time. If we can get a Gremlin that would be ideal, but it should be a car so rusted out that one cannot easily determine what it once was.

I'll perform the role of the old fuddy duddy old guy with a thick US southern accent. I'll wear a sweater, collared shirt that's way out of fashion, flood pants, and worn out shoes. I may need to grey my hair, or I can shave my head so I look so old all my hair has fallen out. Sitting next to me on the porch swing will be a skeleton donated by the science department of a nearby university. The ballcap on its head will have the University's name on it. Perhaps we'll also dress it with a varsity sweatshirt. There should also be room on the porch swing so any visitor to the exhibit could opt to participate in the exhibit by sitting next to me and the skeleton for a lemonade. I'll have built up an entire character background which will avail me the ability to develop about twenty topics of worthless trivia that an old man on a front porch might want to discuss while staring blankly at a rusting car.

We could also have an assistant walking around periodically offering people lemonade as they approach the exhibit. I'll call her Dorothy and cuss her out all the time ordering her to do chores around the house that I know she'll never get around to doing because she never listens to me and being upset that I spent all that money on a college education because no one in their right mind would marry her. There's a wealth of terrible humor possibilities here.

However if we're really unable to afford all of that, the exhibit could just consist of a lawn chair and a broken television set on a milk crate. I think it would equate about the same emotional intensity.
posted by ZachsMind at 12:46 PM on December 10, 2001

hmm. See, I thought you might want to pun off "Lemon" and have it apply to the car, eh? Then the make is essential, n'est-ce pas?

The exhibit can consist of anything -- but which one is more artistically honest? Do you care about a broken televisoin setting on a milk crate? Are you going to spend the same amount of time with the process of arrangment as you described with the "Lemon" project? If not, then the work will, most likely, show the lack of confidence and manipulation. And yeah, when you describe a project as "a room filled with broken clappers", it does sound incomplete; just as your initial description of the "Lemon" Project (I'm just going to call it LP from here on out) was woefully uninteresting until you started talking about what the porch would be like, the actual performance that would occur, etc.

Is the piece in question a room full of clappers?

Perhaps, in a very generalized sense. But what's in the room? What does the room look like? What's the spatial relationship of the audience to the light sources? What kind of noise does a light switching on and off make? Are they synchronized? Out of sync? What kind of effect does each have?

Let's say you're working on your lawn chair project -- at some point you've got to ask yourself -- why a fucking lawn chair? And, if I've got this lawn chair and this TV, what color should the lawn chair look like -- is it facing the TV? Is it away from it? Sure, these sound like simple, mundane points -- hell, I just put the lawn chair smack in front of the TV, and the tv goes on top of the milk crate. But why not put the lawn chair across an open field? Twenty yards away? Well -- try it. Is it better? Worse? What field should it be in? Why? Meaning doesn't arise out of a vacuum -- it comes from the concious choices an artist makes while creating their work.

My point is, this guy (and most practicing artists) may work with mundane materials, and may even produce projects that sound mundane -- but they put a hell of a lot of thought into it, and a lot of trial and error and experimentation. To make an artwork you don't necessarily have to have motor skills, or be especially good at sketching or painting or know some sort of technical trade -- just make something. When you're finished, I think you'll realize that A) you can't talk rationally about it either (because it either sounds presumptuous or just stupid) and B) simple ideas can be realized in a beautiful manner.

You don't just throw a bunch of shit in a field, yell "BE ART" and get something interesting everytime.

no. you've got to throw shit in the field for at least two weeks. That's why we'll need your Paid Time Off (PTO).

and at least fifteen milk crates -- let's not half-ass it here.
posted by fishfucker at 2:03 PM on December 10, 2001

televisoin est un nouveau français TV, eh?

and concious is that thing that grows in your ear when you're unconscious.
posted by fishfucker at 2:07 PM on December 10, 2001

I thought you might want to pun off "Lemon" and have it apply to the car, eh? Then the make is essential, n'est-ce pas?

Yes, it must be a Pontiac Le Mans, the only car ever named for what it is.
posted by kindall at 2:13 PM on December 10, 2001

Clearly it is worth the money - because we're all talking about it. That's good art.
posted by skylar at 3:35 PM on December 10, 2001

if someone is in the room, is it really an empty room? i think not, disqualification.
posted by tsarfan at 5:29 PM on December 10, 2001

Jeez, it seems like I'm the only person in Western society who actually likes and appreciates the light bulb exhibit. It's art, get with it people.
posted by wackybrit at 11:13 PM on December 25, 2001

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