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Mothers Spinning Out of Control

© Martin Creed, Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo: Hugo Glendinning

Martin Creed is my kind of guy.  He’s the intriguing artist whose current exhibition “Mothers” is on at Hauser & Wirth on Savile Row.  I, along with my mom and son, had the fortunate opportunity to behold, chew over and digest the works.  I’m still digesting.

As both a mother and an artist, two works stood out for me, Work No. 1092 (or the work commonly referred to as Mothers) and Work No. 1177.

When asked about his thinking behind Mothers, a 12 ½ meters long, 2 ½ meters high steel beam supporting white neon lights which spell out Mothers in capital letters, Creed said in an interview that he thought mothers are probably the most important people.  I momentarily thought of Norman Bates, but after reading Creed’s explanation in a separate interview, I know he’s speaking on a more macro level.  Creed said, “This work made me sick, there were so many times when I felt sick working on it.  I think it has something to do with Mothers… I think families are really difficult.”  Families difficult?  I don’t know anyone who’s ever had difficulties with their family (cue the uproarious laughter).  Creed added, “I think the most powerful and difficult relationship in the whole world is between a mother and child.  That is the one where the baby is literally part of the mother and is not separate, and then you have to come out and be separate.  It is the most difficult thing to do.  I think to actually be a mother is very difficult and to have a mother is difficult.”

And when asked why he wanted the motorised sculpture to spin – orbiting at varying speeds and bringing to mind the different settings of a ceiling fan – Creed replied, “Mothers spinning out of control rang true to me.”  He must know about the Whirling Dervishes Playgroup or the Our Descendants Sometimes Make Us Dizzy Support Group.

Standing in the room, seemingly purpose-built for this enormous sculpture, I considered Creed’s explanation that the size reflects the importance of mothers and how they literally contain us at birth.  He pronounced, “In general we think of something as ‘big’ if it’s bigger than us, so because as babies we are inside the mother, by definition the mother has to be big.”  I also found it curious that while welcomed to, none of the 50 or so fellow observers ventured under the sculpture.  At one point, I felt said observers – whose hair and attire looked a bit windswept while the sculpture moved at its full speed – staring at me and my little guy in his buggy, as if to say, “You’re obviously a mother and as such, this sculpture includes a gyratory halo for you, so go for it, go stand under it.”  Risk my life under this monster?  No thanks, not today (my initial apprehension paralleled that of when I went to see a Damien Hirst piece)  I am aware that, sadly, fine art malfunctions have caused very tragic situations, and the irony of mothers taking this mother’s life was too much to bear.

© Martin Creed, Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth.

Using his art to comment on the magnitude of the matriarch in our lives, Creed also graces us with Work No. 1177’s presence.  This black and white, silent 35mm film – which especially when combined with Mothers – alludes to a domineering mama in our friend Freud’s oedipal phase.  The film centers on a woman’s breast, whose nipple goes from its usual state to an erect state after a hand tweaks it.  In his past work, Creed has shown a fascination with how our bodies function and react, often with overt sexual undertones, but this film was different than others in the series.  I thought it was beautiful.  I thought it was persuasive.  And despite having breasts of my own and having breastfed my son, this was the first time I’ve witnessed this sequence in such a manner.  It helps that I’m also a fan of silent films; they leave more space for one’s own interpretation.  My three-year-old watched the film and asked why it wasn’t moving.  He stood watching it for 15 seconds, I’m sure wondering why there wasn’t a caped crusader or scallywag entering the scene.  I asked him if he knew what the image in the film was, and he responded, “Let’s go.”

There are dozens of additional pieces in this exhibition, but these are the only two that spoke to me.  There was a wit, a cheeky little boy at play, and a minimalism – as there was with Creed’s Blu-Tack, lights switching on and off, and balloons pieces – that has enamoured me to the artist.

Is Creed’s own mom as enamoured as his myriad admirers?  He said he thinks his relationship with his mom is quite good.  She’s always been very supportive of his art practice and often comes to his shows.  Aww, bless.  Just in case this isn’t actually the case, I’m sending her an invite to a spinning class I know of whose instructor focuses on using physical exertion to cope with snags in mother-son relationships.

Gift Ideas Ring, Are You Listening?

Here is a transcript of a conversation I overheard at the playground a few days ago:

Mom A:  “I haven’t even started my Christmas shopping yet.  What are you getting little Janey Jane for Christmas?”

Mom B (who is sincerely sweet, always looks amazing, whose children are little angels, and who is apparently very well-organised):  I finished all my shopping, and little Johnny John’s presents are all wrapped and hidden away until Christmas.”

If you lie somewhere between Mom A and Mom B and are looking for gift suggestions for your own or other children, you’re in luck!  Here are some just-waiting-to-be-wrapped-and-put-under-the-tree ideas that might appeal to you.

If they’re toys you’re after, look no further than Petit Chou in London W1, an itsy bitsy toy shop that could’ve been plucked from a scene in Ingmar Bergman’s Fanny and Alexander, packed wall-to-wall with wonderful toys.  Some of my favourites in the shop include the life-size abacus, wooden shape and size sorters, and the perfectly tuned xylophone.  For those of you not in London, Petit Chou offers worldwide shipping.  

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All Aboard

“Would you be interested in reviewing the BRIO Little Forest Train Set?” asked the folks over at Baby Direct, to which I responded, “But of course.”

It has to be said: Brio rocks!  What’s not to like about a toy manufacturer that has its own Declaration of Independence which states:

There are those who say that you can’t eat out once you have children.
That you’ll never have time to read.
That you can’t travel.
That you’ll never dance on the tables again.
There are those who say that you’ll never wear white.
That you’ll put on a track suit every morning and never buy another pair of stilettos.
There are those who say that the future looks bleak.
We beg to disagree.
We know that it isn’t always easy to juggle family life with work, friends, ball games, shopping and everything else you want to do. But at BRIO, our goal is to make that life easier, fun-filled and joyful.

Any company that says it will assist me in my quest to dance on a table again has my vote.  Oh, that time at B.B. King’s Blues Club, listening to and watching the man himself with a belly full of fried pickles and too much wine.  Ahem, I digress…

This train set represents everything that is great about BRIO and about many of the toys which are conceived and/or manufactured in Scandinavian countries.  Contrary to Bergman films created in the same region, the toys are uncomplicated.  Similar to his films, they are beautiful and require imagination.

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Deck the Walls

It never occurred to me to not display my son’s masterpieces – and I wholeheartedly believe they are masterpieces – on our walls.  Whenever he creates a new one, I ask him if I can hang it on the wall, and he says, “Tac, tac, tac!”  This is because I tell him I need him to help me pull pieces of White Tac to put on the back of the masterpieces in order to make them stick to the wall.

We are currently visiting family for an extended period of time, and the first things I thought to pack – before clothes, Calpol, blankie, and favourite books and toys – were the masterpieces.  I’m not sure if it was more for me or for him, but I immediately fixed the masterpieces on the walls in my parents’ home.  And when my little guy’s cousins came over, he was so happy to share these drawings, paintings, collages, and sticker, cotton wool, stamp and leaf creations with them.  He introduced each work of genius, excitedly stumbling over his words while describing the contents.  He was so proud, and I was stolzgeschwellt watching and listening to him.

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