British-born, Scotland-raised artist Martin Creed (b. 1968, Wakefield, UK) once set runners off in a jog around an exhibition; he inserted nails at different distances from the wall to create a tiny installation about scale but also created a 15-foot tall neon sign that spelled out the phrase “small things.” His 2001 Turner Prize-winning installation at the Tate Britain, Work No. 227, turned the lights off and then on again in the galleries at five-second intervals. At times labeled a conceptualist, other times a minimalist, often-times a provocateur, Creed has created a body of work based on poetically mundane objects or ambitiously scaled installations, all which of reevaluate the status of art with a generous sense of humor.
For the 2012 calendar year, Martin Creed is the MCA’s artist-in-residence, bringing his paintings, sculptures, installations, films performance works and music to Chicago in his first major Midwestern presentation. Following the hugely successful Mark Bradford Project that engaged the artist with several youth communities, the Creed residency engages the MCA building itself as the site for an expansive art practice. Beginning in January 2012, new works are unveiled at the MCA on a monthly basis, progressing upward through the four floors of the building and accumulating through December. Some projects—such as a row of potted plants or sculpture made of Lego blocks—live as sculptures in the public spaces; some projects are site-specific—such as a sound work for the elevators or geometric murals in the atrium or café—and others still serve to play with the very notion of a carefully curated object, such as a work that places a crumpled ball of paper in all the MCA’s public spaces. Additional works are presented on the MCA plaza and at locations throughout the city.
As objects are installed throughout the building, Creed also gives a number of performances, building up toward a ballet in the theater next fall. Outside, of the MCA building, Creed explores the vibrant music scene here in Chicago and spends time recording an album with local producers. As the MCA turns the museum over to Creed for the year, his residency succinctly illustrates MCA’s idea of the “artist-activated, audience-engaged” museum.