Michael Craig-Martin at The Serpentine

The height of technology at any given moment will eventually come to look like a landing stage way below the summit, after all.

On the night of November 24th, the Plinth team hopped in a cab and crawled through London’s frozen centre – suddenly brimming with Christmas lights, and crammed with people. We headed to the Serpentine gallery, to see the opening of Michael Craig Martin’s new exhibition, ‘Transience’.

Phone

Perhaps our journey from the darkness of a winter evening into the brightly lit gallery made the colours in this exhibition seem even more vibrant – nonetheless, the intense shades certainly make an impression in their own right. The work the paint makes up, too, sends a clear message. The paintings feature various everyday objects – a trainer shoe, a debit card, a laptop – rendered in surreal hues, accurate and to-scale with crisp, black outlines. The strength of colour extends to the space itself: the walls of the gallery were painted with shades lifted from, or complimenting, their respective canvases.

Trainer

The exhibition’s common thread is to be read in its title. All the objects depicted are – were, will be – essential and then disposable. The clunky weight of walkmans is displayed alongside the sleek lines of iPhones. The latter was out in force, photographing the work and in every handbag. Twenty years ago, the former would have been in every jacket pocket, headphones draped round every neck. The height of technology at any given moment will eventually come to look like a landing stage way below the summit, after all.

Craig Martin has desigined a digital artwork for the Serpentine, 'Lightbulb'. It is available for free, to download to phone or computer, to anyone with access to an internet connection.

Tape

The exhibition showcases work produced between 1981 (incidentally, the first year the personal computer was made available) and 2014. The intervening years have seen a digital revolution, not to mention a shift in manufacture which has made products – like the trainers, batteries and plastic torches painted by Craig Martin – so cheap as to be virtually disposable. When the pieces are displayed all together, the hyper-intense colour palette comes to serve as a vehicle for a tongue in cheek take on advertising: a cynical, ‘last-ditch’ attempt to kindle the consumer interest that deserted the object long ago, or which will fade soon.

The exhibition makes art out of the everyday, and 'Lightbulb' thrusts it straight back into the hands of the consumers it satirises – gratis.

Walkman

In keeping with the spirit of progess, and the democratisation of consumption that cheap goods afford the developed world, Craig Martin has desigined a digital artwork for the Serpentine, 'Lightbulb'. It is available for free, to download to phone or computer, to anyone with access to an internet connection. This final piece weds, fleetingly, the opposing sides of the dichotomy which ‘Transience’ interrogates. The exhibition makes art out of the everyday, and 'Lightbulb' thrusts it straight back into the hands of the consumers it satirises – gratis.

http://mcmlightbulb.serpentinegalleries.org/

Keyboard