Martin Creed: Twenty (More) Questions by Corinna Durland

2004; Wrong Times, #1

Corinna Durland: So, like I said in that e-mail that I wrote to you, what we’re going to do is … I was looking at and saw a twenty questions interview with Ally Hilfiger (Tommy Hilfiger’s daughter) and Jaime Gleicher (I’m not sure who she is) but they’re the stars of a new reality TV show here called “Rich Girls.”

Martin Creed: Ahhh [laughs] Right. Yeah.

CD: So, since it really is the wrong interview, I had to change the questions a little for you … a couple words here and there since you are an artist, not a really, really rich teenage girl. But they are basically the same questions that I am going to ask you. You can skip any of them if you want and you’re allowed to pass.

MC: Are you recording?

CD: Yeah.

MC: O.K.

CD: O.K., so you ready?

MC: So … aye … I’m ready.

CD: Number One: Tell us about yourself.

MC: [Laughs] Well … my name is Martin Creed … and … [pause] I think that is all I would want to say really. The rest would take too long.

CD: Well, I want to ask you about your background and we can edit it out or leave it in. You were brought up as a Quaker in Scotland. Would you say that your Quaker upbringing informs your work?

MC: Yeah, I think it does probably. But … eh … I mean, yeah, my parents were Quakers … well, they still are, and we used to go to, you know, to Quaker Sunday School. When the parents went to Quaker Meeting the children were in the Sunday School being looked after by people. So, aye, the Quaker … I mean, I think … you know, looking back … when I think about it … I think there is quite a big connection between a lot of my works and the way that Quakers do things. I’m taking about the Society of Friends in England, you know, which is also in America, not to be confused with Shakers or those kind of … more extreme … eh … religions. Ah … but I think, you know, the silence, for example, the silence when they do the meeting for worship, the silence and the… well, many of the things are relevant to my work probably, but I’m not a Quaker and I’m not religious in any kind of organized way. One thing I remember very well was learning about like, Quaker eh … kind of, you know, when they have a meeting to decide what colour to paint the walls or whatever, they have a kind of process they go through which is neither like … neither do they take a vote on it and decide things that way, nor does one person decide. It’s like all decisions are taken through … like … consulting everyone and trying to understand all points of view.

CD: Is that why it is hard for you to make decisions?

MC: [Laughs] Aye! I think partly, yeah. Definitely. I don’t know.

CD: Why everything is yes and no?

MC: Yeah, I think so, yeah.

CD: Lights on and lights off?

MC: Aye, exactly. Everything … well, I want the whole world to be in my work. You know, and I don’t want to … I want to … yeah, I want to choose yes and no, you know. I want to have everything in it, and that’s the problem, that’s the problem with any kind of decision. Mot decisions are judgments that place one thing above or more important than another and I don’t like … I don’t like doing that, you know, I think it is possible to choose everything.

CD: Is his related to your works that have many different versions? What about, for example, the lights going on and off as thirty-second intervals, they you have another piece in which the lights go on and off at five-second intervals, then another work is the lights in a building going on and off: one second on, one second off?

MC: It’s … that is part of it, but, for example, those different lights on / off works, the five-second version and the thirty-second version, I see them as basically functional works in that each of the different versions are necessary because, well, in the way they work they are different. The thirty-second version lends itself to a situation in which there is stuff to look at in the room, you know … paintings or anything to look at. Thirty seconds give you time to look at whatever is in the room, after which the lights go off and maybe you have to wait then for thirty seconds until they come on again, so that you can look. Whereas the five-second, the short version is, um … that was actually calculated, that amount of time … based on the amount of time it might take in a kind of average size room, to walk across the room, or through the room, So that, walking into the room and out again, the lights would go on and off at least a few times. Even if you are only there for twenty seconds, you can basically get the work.

CD: By the time you make it in and out.

MC: You get the work twice [laughs] in that time. A lot of those decisions are made in a very, very practical way. You know, that particular five-second version of the lights going on and off is kind of eh, kind of em … eh, aye! … like a kind of an easy work I think. You can see the work in the space of, yeah, twenty seconds you know. There is really nothing to look at so it doesn’t matter if you’re looking at the floor, the walls or the ceiling, you know. The lights will still be going on and off and you will be able to feel it or see it. So those different versions are … those different versions of the works are responding to different needs that I think are present and which I think I should respond to.

CD: Let’s talk about another work that has many different versions and how it means something else. Like your objects that showed up the first time in Work No. 9 (1989), simply two objects, then they have reappeared over the years in different versions and different contexts.

MC: Yeah. Well I suppose those are, eh … aye … I think in all of my work, you know, there are many times … like I’m doing things now that I did … you know … I did similar things … years and years ago. And it has always been kind of like that for me, like going back to things and looking at them again, jumping backwards and forwards. I think some-times when I am working on things I just get sick of it, you know.

CD: Get sick of what exactly?

MC: Looking at the thing. Thinking about something so much. Then you just think, oh god, you know. I think that’s why I work in different ways, that’s why I do the music as well. Because after a while, basically, I’m not usually happy using one medium. And I think that’s also the reason I come back to things—after a while I usually go back to things—because whatever it was, it wasn’t really finished. You know the first time I made those little objects, I thought, what have I done, you know? What are these little things and what can I do with them?

CD: Well you put them in a dishwasher.

MC: Yes. And then I took photos of them in different places where I thought they looked at home, you know, and then I made one version as a salt and pepper [shaker] set. The objects were always two. There was a brass one and a chrome one.

CD: You also made a piece that is four objects sitting on a bar.

MC: Aye, that was going through the different variations with the cap and the body of the thing being different materials and the four of them were the combinations and … but then I never … this happens quite a lot … at the time I do things I might just do it a bit, you know, and then go on to something else because I am not sure what I think about it, and that’s probably the best way to describe coming back to things like those objects … you know, because I kind of change my mind about things, and so … I’m lost now, from the question.

CD: From telling me about yourself?

MC: [Laughs] Ah, right, my parents were Quakers. [Laughs] Em, no, really, I have a lot of respect for Quakers—they’re very open-minded, and they do not seem stuck in the kind of, uh, in the ways that they do things, because the way that they worship is actually, basically kind of an empty way.

CD: I guess the answer did get pretty long.

CD: Number two: Describe yourself in three words.

MC: [Laughs] I think maybe the best three words would be: “I don’t know.”

CD: Number three: What makes you happy?

MC: Oh wow…love and work.

CD: Number four: [Omitted]

CD: Number five: Describe your work in three words?

MC: Wow … [pause] … I like it.

CD: How different do you consider question number five from question number two: “Describe yourself in three words?”

MC: Ah … em … yeah, well not very different, except that if I say “I like it,” talking about my work, to me it means both that I like doing my work and that I like my work. But if I said that about myself, I would feel slightly as if I was … eh … you know … Because in a way, although I don’t think there is a line between me and my work, you know, there is some distance which [laughs] leaves space for a  more confident arrogance. [laughs].

CD: Number six: Describe one of your favourite moments?

MC: … um … [pause] … um … [silence] …

CD: Would it be something like winning the Turner Prize, or something entirely different?

MC: I don’t know if that would be … I mean that was great. Yeah, that was great, but I’d think of more … eh … something like when I am really into work. Like when I am doing a new piece of work and I’m really, really excited about it … on my own, in the studio. The feeling when you’re totally caught up in a new piece of work and you’re excited … that kind of adrenaline, when you can’t wait until the next day to keep working on it.

CD: Number seven: What are your pet peeves about the way people describe your work?

MC: [Laughs] Right. I suppose … well … em … I don’t really mind … you can’t expect people to be anything other than free, you know. But, for example, I don’t agree that I am a conceptual artist. Sometimes I get called a conceptual artist, but I don’t believe in conceptual art, you know, in the sense that all art, all work is ‘conceptual’ or not. Basically I don’t find that a useful title for anything, so that’s one thing, I suppose.

CD: How useful do you find the term minimalist?

MC: [Laughs] Yeah, I don’t … well … I don’t really agree … yeah … no … I don’t really mind that, because I think it is broadly true that in my work­—at least in the look of it—much of it is what you could call “minimalistic,” but that isn’t for want of trying to make it the opposite. [Laughs] Because basically the work ends up the way it does through the process. I don’t strive for minimalism. It’s not what I am striving for or seeking. It’s just that I end up with a white thing because I can’t decide what colour to use, or I end up with an empty room because I don’t believe in anything enough to put all my faith in it and place it in the middle of the room and say, “Hey look at this.” The way that the work looks and the nature of the work is the result of the process, and for me, that is the most important thing in my work, the process. The result is often a failure. Quite the opposite of a goal being achieved or anything like that … But I think that is probably true of most work. I think the worst type of work usually comes from trying, when you’ve got some idea of … I think the best way to work is to be kind of open to whatever may come, to be as open as you can to let things happen while you are working, and not have some kind of goal in mind. When people say “minimalist” it makes me think of someone striving for “pure” shapes, unadulterated by decoration or extra stuff put in.

CD: But then there is also the aspect of minimalism that is about a minimal object or piece letting the world around it exist and really become part of the work, which also seems relevant to your work.

MC: I agree absolutely.

CD: Well we’ll take minimalism out of pet peeves and make it, if not entirely accurate, at least a useful term.

MC: Aye … yeah … but I’ll tell you something, the word “nothing” often gets used when people talk about my work. They often cite quotes like “trying to make nothing” and I think it’s misused a lot, the word “nothing.” Or lazily used, basically because nothing is something. Everything is something. Aye … the word nothing is a very difficult word to use, you know, and it’s often not used very well.

CD: This question may kind of put you on the spot.

MC: Oh, no.

CD: The original question was “What are you looking for in a guy?”

MC: [Laughs] All right.

CD: O.K., Number eight: What are you looking for in a relationship with … your gallery?

MC: Ah, right, wow …

CD: What do you find important?

MC: Well, I’m looking for … well, this relates a lot to the process of working, without necessarily knowing what’s going to happen next, but to try to be open to new things , unknown things. So, what am I looking for? I’m looking for an alive relationship where I feel able to express myself with my gallery or the people that work for the gallery and I feel listened to. But a live relationship … I suppose exciting really.

CD: This was: “Describe your ideal date. Who would it be with?” So, I’ve changed it to: Number nine: Describe your ideal commission. Who would it be for?

MC: Wow, I don’t know.

CD: What about the lights going on and off in an entire building—and it’s the Empire State Building?

MC: Well yeah, exactly. That’s something that I would really like to do. I’d like to do the lights going on and off in a whole town, maybe every one second.

CD: That would be great!

MC: Or … definitely … in a whole huge building, aye, there are things like that that I would like to do. Or in a whole street, just one street. But, you know, a few years ago in London a collector said to me, “What have you really always wanted to do in your work?” He was proposing to commission something. “What have you always wanted to do and haven’t ever done?” and em … I didn’t really know how to answer that because, you know, that’s sort of … kind of abstract and … you know … those kind of ideals are often so far away from … well, the exciting work is, like I’ve been saying, is the kind of work that you don’t even know about. If you know what you want, then what you want can’t really be that interesting.

CD: Number ten: What is your favourite vacation destination? What is the one place you a dying to travel to?

MC: Wow, I dunno … I just … I mean, now that I live in a holiday place [Alicudi, a small island off the coast of Sicily]. I never went on holiday for years, really for years, because I was working all the time. I’ve never found it easy to be on holiday, since all I want to do really, ever, is work. But then after so many years of never going on holiday, I went on holiday and ended up living there, which is here.

CD: Well I guess that’s it then?

MC: [Laughs] Aye, I suppose so, but now, I suppose now that I do live here, I don’t know that I can really say that I’m on holiday here.

CD: Well if you can do the two at the same time: working in a place you love, it sounds like you’ve really found something special.

MC: I mean, well, one thing is for sure, I never thought I would. I honestly can say that I love … I mean, I never thought that I would love a place, but I do absolutely love this island you know. To me that’s amazing. Because, London, for example it’s a great place, but made more by the people that are in it, all the stuff that is happening. But this place, this actual place, this island, this little rock sticking out of the sea … I love it. Maybe it’s because it’s like a sculpture this island.

CD: I’d love to see it

MC: Aye, you should come.

CD: Number eleven: Have you ever had a job? What was it? What is your dream job?

MC: When I was a teenager I had a paper round, you know, I only lasted about two days before I ended up throwing a stack of magazines in a hedge. I couldn’t get up. [Laughs] I just couldn’t get up to do it. I think I’ve always found it difficult to do things that I don’t believe in, you know. And I didn’t believe in that paper round. And then later as a student, I had a job working in a café, just a coffee place and I think I also lost that job because I couldn’t get up for it … you know. I used to have a problem waking up. So much so that when I was a student I had three alarm clock arranged around my bed. Everyone else in the shared house I lived in used to wake up from my three alarm clocks, but not me, I slept through them.

CD: So now do you think you have your dream job?

MC: Yeah basically.

CD: Number twelve: What are your three favourite movies?

MC: Three favourite movies? Wow … well … that’s difficult but … oh wow. There has got to be … let’s see … maybe Dr. Strangelove would be one. Eh … ah … em [silence] I don’t know. There are so many, I don’t really … um [silence] … wow … I don’t know … well, going on from Dr. Strangelove … one of the Pink Panther  movies, maybe A Shot in the Dark which is Peter Sellers … and finally, maybe something like … em … ah … what is another … uh, god I hate these kind of questions.

CD: We can leave it at two.

MC: Aye maybe I’ll come back to that one.

CD: Number thirteen: What is the best party you’ve been to? Where was it?

MC: Ah … no way.

CD: Who was there? What happened?

MC: I don’t know. I don’t think I have ever been to a good party.

CD: We can leave it at that.

MC: You know that is exactly the problem with parties; they’re not good. [Laughs].

CD: Number fourteen: What are your hobbies? What do you do in your spare time for fun?

MC: Oh … wow … No I don’t have hobbies. Because … you know … my work is always … work is always, also in my spare time [laughs].

CD: That’s what I figured.

MC: It’s all … it’s all the same really.

CD: Number fifteen: Name five hottie celebs that are on your “wish list?” Ally Hilfiger’s are: 1) Ashton Kutcher; 2) Brad Pitt; 3) Josh Hartnett; 4) Justin Timberlake; 5) Taye Diggs.

MC: [Laughs] I dunno, on your wish list meaning?

CD: Maybe you’d say Britney Spears, maybe it would be Bridget Bardot, I don’t know. I’d say Jake Gyllenhaal. Maybe we will just leave Ally’s answer for this one.

MC: Aye … maybe … eh … all of those people. I like them, to a certain extent. [Laughs] Ah … I don’t know if I can answer that Corinna.

CD: O.K. Let’s pass.

MC: Because I don’t really mind, you know, I don’t really care. There are plenty of people I like … you know … aye, I dunno.

CD: What items could you not live without?

MC: You know recently I had a computer crash. My computer is so important to me that sometimes I think it is a problem. I don’t want to be so heavily not able to live without something, but maybe my notebook; actually, more … and I don’t mean my computer [chuckles]. My notebook, I think my notebook.

CD: What do you use your notebook for?

MC: Well … all forms of working. Although I heavily, heavily use my computer all the time—what I lost when my computer crashed was basically my database, my addresses and my e-mail stuff. But all work notes and work stuff is usually written by hand in a notebook. The raw working on things and thinking about things is usually on paper. The computer usually only comes in later, you know, for practicality … so basically, the answer is computer and paper.

CD: Number seventeen: Who do you admire? Who is your role model? Who would you like to meet if you haven’t already?

MC: Wow, ah … who do I admire? Lots of people. Artists. I like Frank Stella, I admire him a lot. I am a big fan of David Byrne, a musician. To meet? … I dunno, I also admire Madonna. I like her music …  a lot of it. But as for meeting, I think I would be very excited about meeting any of those people, you know, because I like them a lot. It would be nice … but you know my idea of them is to do with their work, and the way that I’ve heard or seen it, you know. So I don’t know if meeting them would really … I think it would be exciting, but who knows if I would like them or them me.

CD: Well what was it like to meet Madonna?

MC: Ah, that was very nice. That was very exciting … I like her.

CD: Number eighteen: What is the biggest misconception about artists?

MC: About artists? The biggest misconception about artists is that they are interesting [laughs].

CD: Number nineteen: What do you hope that people will learn from seeing your work?

MC: Eh … aye, well, I don’t hope that they will learn anything. I hope that they will be excited and happy.

CD: Number twenty: Where do you see yourself in ten years?

MC: I don’t know, because you obviously don’t mean a physical place?

CD: Could be. We talked about how much you love Alicudi …

MC: [Laughs] Yeah, exactly. No, really, I dunno actually, honestly, I cannot imagine where I would be in ten years. I would hope that wherever I would be and whatever I would be doing, I would be really into it excited about it, you know …

CD: Listen, the tape is out.

MC: Ah, O.K. Shit!

CD: It’s just about to click off.

MC: Right, ok …

CD: And that’s number twenty so it’s a good place to stop.

MC: God. Twenty is a larger number of questions than I thought …