The Fruitmarket Gallery, 45 Market Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1DF

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Review by Freddy Synborn

In a documentary shown in the Fruitmarket Gallery, Martin Creed explains that he likes music because it makes itself in the moment of our experiencing it. With the centrepiece of Down Over Up, Creed goes further: he tricks us into making our own music. He has transformed the central staircase of the gallery into a chromatic scale, each step when used playing its semitone in the pattern. A rising, excited music is created by people ascending to the main room of the Fruitmarket; those coming back down bring make a deflating descent. Creed uses the logic of stairs to impose anticipation, disappointment on us in order that we might notice and break this logic. Entering the gallery, I was aware of regular scales, sometimes moving up and down simultaneously but always essentially ordered. It was only when the pattern broke - when someone was surprised, took a step back, made a new shape - that I realised where and how the music was happening. Their surprise created my surprise. (The person turned out to be an oldish woman. I know this because she cantered down the last couple of steps, modestly elated, before crashing straight into me.) Creed makes his audience connect.

He also toys with banality and whimsy. A Photoshop portrait of him with a thought-bubble coming out from his head was simply frustrating. And he’s not an artist who tries for beauty. He says he ‘makes things’ for us to look at, things which don’t want interpretation. So I found myself looking at four white cardboard boxes stacked in height order on top of each other, studying the text of them, the shadows, the broken tape, consciously trying to invent the piece a meaning. Is this process pretentious’ Ridiculous’ I was aware of my role as an audience, my contribution and resistance to making art - which is surely his point - but not especially interested in performing it.

More successfully, the artist stacks different kinds of chairs on top of each other. Modern, old, office, home, the chairs become the same word, its many permutations, the distance between individual realities and yet still harmonious, even if we have to impose that harmony. Upstairs, Work 745 is a row of framed A4 pieces of paper. Each piece is completely coloured in with different kinds of green pen. The greens harmonised like the chairs as, again, Creed highlights the process, not the content. Short, sharp blocks, wavy strokes, methodical strips broken only by an unsteady hand - the movements which create his work become the work. The finished product is the producing. Martin Creed has achieved some of his desired intent: to make his art like music.

Martin Creed, Work No. 1061 from this is tomorrow on Vimeo.

Martin Creed, Work No. 409 from this is tomorrow on Vimeo.

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