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Down Over Up: Martin Creed's New Edinburgh Exhibition

The Turner Prize winning artist discusses his latest show, fear as motivation and his relationship to shit and sick

Martin Creed’s latest exhibition, Down Over Up at the Fruitmarket Gallery as part of the Edinburgh Art Festival, is curated along the theme of steps and increments found in the artist’s work. Whilst such a theme may at first sound clinical, coupled with Creed’s renowned playfulness, it reveals a fascinating desire to experiment with order along minimalist lines. On show are older works such his sculptures of stacked chairs, tables and boxes, his step paintings and singing elevator installation, as well as a new piece: a musical staircase which plays one note at a time as visitors tread on each step of the gallery’s main staircase. He speaks to Dazed about his work.
Dazed Digital: Have you found that this latest exhibition has given you the opportunity to find new meanings in your work?
Martin Creed: I don’t know about meanings because I wouldn’t say that I know what it means. But for sure it means different things to me; whatever it means to other people is something else. This show is curated by Fiona [Bradley] at Fruitmarket, so when someone else puts your work up it’s a chance to find something out about it. In fact perhaps there’s the chance to look at the work as if I’m a viewer. Some of the older works I forget I made and I come in and think ‘Ah that’s nice’ or ‘Oh God’. So it’s just a chance to get a bit of distance from it.
DD: You’ve made a new piece for the show: a musical staircase. In many ways it seems an extension of the elevator installation (where the sound of people singing goes up or down depending on which way you travel in the lift).
Martin Creed: Very similar, aye. Just the one big difference being that you yourself play the piece by stepping on the steps whereas the journey of the elevator is predetermined by the mechanics of the elevator. It’s a different kind of music that’s made, if you can call it music…
DD: And you’ve called it a prototype… are you pleased with how it’s turned out?
Martin Creed: Yeah, actually I’m really pleased. I’m excited about it. But I think all works are little prototypes, it’s a matter of trying them out and taking them on the road and exhibiting it a few times to learn about it.
DD: You’re also speaking at Edinburgh International Book Festival about two recently released books, one of which is a detailed and comprehensive survey on your work from Thames and Hudson. How do you feel about that huge book?
Martin Creed: Oh God, I was really scared about that. That was hard to make, just compiling it took a long time. I think the main thing that was difficult was the fear of just thinking about it. Things I’d swept under the carpet years ago I had to look at. The book contains nearly everything I’ve exhibited or sold that’s gone out.
DD: It’s interesting that you mentioned your fear about making the book because in the past you’ve said that it’s fear that has driven some of your works for example your films with people being sick.
Martin Creed: The sick and shit films I think came directly from thinking that life and work is a matter of dealing with what comes out of you and that includes sweat, shit and also feelings. But it’s also a logical train of thought: I’m getting up everyday trying to make these things, everyday the one thing I always make is shit but I do that in private. So the shit film is trying to look at a thing that you get taught needs to not be looked at. I’ve been really afraid of sick and shit all my life. I didn’t think of this until recently, in my life I’ve actually been sick in my sleep three times due to drinking too much, and that’s quite a dangerous thing, you can die like that. So I’ve had quite dramatic experiences with vomit, so maybe making a film is something to do with that for me.
All images Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth.

Down Over Up is at the Fruitmarket Gallery until 31 October 2010. Martin Creed will be speaking at the Edinburgh International Book Festival on 16 August 2010 whilst his new hardback book, Martin Creed: Works is out now on Thames & Hudson.