Monday, May 30, 2011

The light fantastic

Over the years we have come to own a number of conceptual artworks i.e. works that are primarily about an idea rather than it expression in an object, although some have objects associated with them. One such work is Untitled by Ryan Moore. It requires the positioning of a mapping pin at a certain height in the middle of the largest wall in an exhibition. As it happened the work did come with a small white mapping pin but it was the act of putting the pin in the wall and so claiming the biggest wall (a politically provocative act if you have ever seen a group of artists vying for exhibition space) that was the artwork. The pin itself was only along for the ride.

This idea was sorely tested when we purchased Martin Creed’s Work No. 88 (a sheet of A4 paper crumpled into a ball). What we received, along with a certificate signed by Martin Creed, was a ball of crumpled paper in a small cardboard box. On the box it was clearly stated that the ball of paper in the box was an “example only”, that is it was not the work, just something to show you what the work might look like. Our son tested our attitude to the specific ball of paper we had received by shredding it and crumpling the shreds into a ball. Our shock at his destruction of the ‘example’ showed we still had a little way to go as conceptual art owners! (Of course he had in fact kept the ‘original’ example but gave us a few more swerves by serving up versions that were flattened out, drawn on, multiplied etc.)

At Scape in Christchurch one time we met Martin Creed. As we had just purchased his Work No. 312 (a lamp going on and off every second) and, as purchasing a lamp was required to make the work work as it were, we asked if he would be interested in an image of it when we eventually chose one. He was very kind about it. Martin Creed knows exactly what conceptual art is all about. “Thanks for the offer" he said, "but I’m really only interested in the light going on and off.”
Image: Martin Creed’s (a sheet of A4 paper crumpled into a ball). Example only