Music journalist Paul Morely described Martin Creed’s band “like Wire with a dash of late-70s punk-poet Patrik Fitzgerald”1. I’m not going there, as I’m neither music aficionado nor snob; in other words I can’t perform music references as pretentiously as I do around art. To give you a gist – my first vinyl album at the age of ten was True by Spandau Ballet; second, Jean Michel Jarre’s Équinoxe: prepubescent identity is not influenced by what clique or rebellion you’re drawn to. The point is, my music identity is colourful. So, I approached Martin Creed’s brand of music – performed LIVE last Saturday night at Broadstone Studios, Dublin – sideways, tip-toeing between contemporary art singularity and music eclecticism.

Before the gig, stray imaginings like Benjamin H. D. Buchloh cracking an unlikely smile when interviewing Creed came to mind when considering the artist’s side-stepping/side-splitting answers to questions by the frustrated but entertained few regarding his creative methodology. Creed seems to refreshingly think on his feet (like Slavoj Žižek without the lip farts). Resulting in none of these rehearsed soliloquies some artists give, built on recently received ideas. That’s not to say he’s not a serious artist, or fully in tune with being contemporary. Being a Turner Prize winner and represented by such big art market players as Hauser and Wirth and Gavin Brown’s enterprise says that he is a professional first and great pretender second; or accidental artist third.


    At Broadstone Studios’ impressive ‘dining room’ venue: wearing glasses, long greying hair tied

    back, check trousers (read as tartan considering his Scottishness), a scuttery/custard cardigan –

    Creed has the same trippy complexion as the generic Persian carpet on which he foot-stamps

    one brown leather shoe in on/off rhythm with an acoustic guitar and harmonica. Playing

    unplugged and band-less, the previously seen YouTube and Vimeo videos of his 4-strong band

    accompanied by keyboards, drums and backing singers could not prepare you for Saturday

    night in Dublin, when Creed’s music was stripped back – the way it perhaps should be –

    like his art.

Thinking while listening – which could be the lyrics of one of Creed’s songs – down the years I have experienced many ‘Martin Creeds’ in galleries, museums and art fairs that now number the 1000s (he doesn’t title his artworks or, god forbid, ‘untitle’ them – they’re numbered). At first hand his formalism comes across as quite linear and binary: a light going on and off, a small-to-large queue of cacti, a door opening and closing. However, this One, Two, Buckle My Shoe minimalism is upended by Creed’s gift for eliciting laughter, or that type of giddiness that one experiences when ‘the penny drops’ on a slow day. I can’t be objective enough to tell if his music with its stuttery repetition and insecure pauses is a backing track for the artworld or can be appreciated in the same way by other publics – I left the real world as soon as I entered art college. But I suspect that the taste left in the mouth by his art as well as his music – from artworldies to Sunday painters – lies somewhere between Marmite and CandyFloss. His art and his music (one an extension of the other) has been opined to look and sound pretentious, but it could be sincere, or contradicts polarities either way. With Creed you are firmly stuck in the middle, conceptually and aesthetically and emotionally. In a way the nonchalant and theory-light presentation of his glass half-full art practice is an antidote to the swank institutional/capitalist/ecological/feminist/pedagogical etcetera discourse of contemporary art. That doesn’t mean I fully trust his conceptualist sincerity – but I do trust his generosity as an artist.


    The applause is reaching a higher pitch with every song; the audience gradually growing

    warmer to Creed’s catchy tunes and semantic reductionism. What better lyric than “I Love

    Things” to get artists to raise their (already) high brows and loosen up their social conservatisms.

Reflecting on Creed’s art while surrounded by a floor-bound and gleeful audience at Broadstone Studios, the Scottish artist’s No 850 at Tate Britain in 2008 was an experiential gem. Creed hired athletes  – kitted out in run-of-the-mill jogging gear – to dash through the museum as if their life depended on it. However, it wasn’t the incongruity of sweaty and stoic jocks taking an unlikely urban wormhole through Tate Britain that was cathartic, but the behind the scenes antics of the athletes when they took a breather and had a chat with their fellow runners on the loop past the jacks back to the starting line.


   “If you‘re having sad thoughts” among other negative feelings – Creed sings in advisory tones

    at Broadstone Studios – “Pass them on”. The lyric is a corrupted version of Hollywood’s more

     utopian ‘Pay it Forward’; eliciting a psychoanalytical scenario between projecting client and

     drowning analyst. This got the biggest laugh of the night ... must of hit home (I wonder why?!).

There is no real separation between Creed’s art and his music, and there shouldn’t be. The artist once admitted that: “I feel like doing the live shows, and going out on the road … a gallery is a more rarefied space. Going on the road with the band and the dancers, doing gigs, that’s a way for me not to be stuck in a room, thinking my airy-fairy thoughts.”2 The separation in Creed’s mind is evidently disclosed here, even though he has said many times before that there is no separation between his art and music. It’s not surprising. The artist had just flown in from New York (art market central) – where he has concurrent solo shows at Hauser and Wirth and Gavin Brown enterprise. The Broadstone Studios event was not slumming it per se, but perhaps a way to let off steam – and for the audience too. A blue chip artist of Creed’s ilk, the pressure to produce art objects is ten-fold – even though Creed’s scribbly signature leaves room to be doctored.


    After a few jokey 1½ liner  lyrics – like What’s The Point Of It? – Creed performs a heart warming,   

    even moving rendition of You’re The One For Me (Vimeo link below). Composed of numbers and

     words and sweet sincerity (what Creed is best at), the tune is catchy enough to bend the general

     publics’ ear.

Would I have went out of my way to experience Creed’s music LIVE if I hadn’t been exposed to his rich history as an artist? No. But that’s not to say I wouldn’t go see him again after the Broadstone Studios gig – I most certainly would. His music has produced another layer to his art practice and vice versa.

Experiencing Martin Creed sing and play acoustic guitar in the unlikely surroundings of artists’ studios in the heart of Dublin was like an art event without art’s formal trappings. Furthermore, the coming together of the Irish art scene for something that is less affected than an exhibition opening, where applause is cringeworthy and cliques form impenetrable donut rings, is a rare occurrence. Encore.

*This event was initiated by Paul Hallahan and supported by Broadstone Studios

as part of Hallahan’s curated group show ‘a lamb lies down’ which runs till 7 November

(open thursday – saturday, 12:30 pm – 5:00 pm and also by appointment)

*Martin Creed’s new album is out January 2014.


1    Paul Morely, Martin Creed, The Guardian, published, published: Sunday 30 January, 2011:


2    Phil Miller, ‘The Mother of invention: Turner Prize-winning artist Martin Creed’, The Herald Scotland

published: Friday 21 January, 2011:


2 DECEMBER_2013_

Therapy Session


Broadstone Studios, Dublin

30 November, 8pm (LIVE gig)

Initiated by PAUL HALLAHAN


Broad Stone Studios, Dublin

30 November, 8pm





Broadstone Studios, Dublin

30 November, 8pm

Photo: Paul McCarthy

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