Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

It Looks So Much Better in the Dark; Madonna Should Hand the [Pounds Sterling]20,000 Turner Prize to Charity

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

It Looks So Much Better in the Dark; Madonna Should Hand the [Pounds Sterling]20,000 Turner Prize to Charity

Article excerpt

Byline: NICK HACKWORTH

THE immediately notorious exhibit of this year's Turner Prize is Martin Creed's vast room in Tate Britain, emptied of everything but light and darkness alternating for five seconds. It is not much of an aesthetic offering, but I struggled with the potentially intellectual business of it as, possibly, an image of the first day of Creation according to Genesis, until an interpreter employed by the Tate claimed it to be a metaphor for mortality. "I think life is like that," he said, "one minute it's on, the next minute it's off" - now there's a man destined for a brief encounter with a London bus.

I returned another day, this time to witness a briefly dramatic variation - the lights switched off and stayed off. The five seconds of darkness doubled, trebled, quadrupled and extended beyond count not utter darkness but dimness, you must understand, not the darkness of oblivion but the shroud of gloom on a sunless winter day, which made the room look as though ... as though the light had been switched off. Was there some intentionally catastrophic implication in this change of rhythm? Were we being subjected to the unnerving and the unpredictable? Were our sleep patterns and body rhythms under disruptive attack? Was this indeed an allegory of death as the Tate's tame interpreter had implied? Most visitors seemed not to notice the difference between light and dark, seemed wholly unaware of the room's apocalyptic possibilities, but simply milled about as crowds do when nothing focuses attention, aimless, yet aware that they were deprived of half the art show; newcomers to the room noticed nothing and walked on in search of more stimulating pleasures.

Only a single German tourist, diligently Baedekerisch, demanded in the accents of Dennis the Dachshund to be told where the art might be. The guard said, "This is it," dutifully parroted the Tate's official explanation of the piece as allegorical, life and death, coming and going, Heaven and Hell and a few embellishments of his own, and ended his exegesis with the consolation: "Don't worry mate, it's much better in the dark. …

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