Considering their sheer minimalism and self-effacing tone, Scottish artist Martin Creed’s whimsical works often attract extreme reactions from critics the public alike. His 2001 Turner Prize-winning Work No. 227: The lights going on and off—an installation composed of an empty gallery illuminated at intervals by a light bulb—aroused both admiration and outrage, with many visitors reportedly walking out in protest. Creed, however, was unfazed. His works are amusing and low-key, marked by their creator’s self-confessed inability to make up his mind: He couldn’t decide whether to keep the lights on or off so he kept them on and off. When he couldn’t decide which marble to use in a project to redesign a public stairway (Work No. 1059, 2011), he used 104 different kinds– one for each step. This quirkiness also extends to his practice of assigning serial numbers to his works. Creed started this completely random ‘system’ in 1986 with Work No. 3: Yellow Painting (he apparently thought it would be arrogant to name it No.1) and has since then continued to generously skip numbers.
His exhibit at the Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2014, Work No. 1941: the whole world + the work = the whole world (2014) is a neon sign declaring exactly that. This unsolvable equation perhaps presents to us Creed’s ambiguous take on the role of art or any kind of human endeavor in the world. Does it remind us of the art work’s inseparability from the world? Does the ‘whole world’ on the right side of the equation acquire any weight by the addition made?