Michael Craig-Martin: Transience
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You probably feel pretty snazzy with your iPhone 6s and your hoverboard, but a quick trip to Michael Craig-Martin’s Serpentine Gallery show should put you to rights. The man who tutored the YBAs (and isn’t sorry) and curated this year’s summer show has documented objects of technological desire in big, simple, direct canvases. There’s a light bulb, a laptop, a cassette – all done in bright, bold colours. He’s not really celebrating these objects, though. Rather, the whole thing acts as a sort of mausoleum for obsolete and soon-to-be-obsolete technology.
There’s a nice appeal to recognising yourself in the images. They evoke memories of owning an Xbox or collecting tapes, but that’s about as far as it gets. Made up of similar motifs, the designs he’s wallpapered across the gallery don’t really help either; they make it feel like you’ve stumbled into a really artsy version of the kids’ section of Habitat.
Craig-Martin is saying these objects are transient, that technology dies and fades away, moves on and evolves. But is it really so surprising that technology becomes obsolete? Is it, in itself, that new of an idea? I’m not convinced that he’s making as much of an ambitious statement as he reckons. It does give the works a sad air, an atmosphere of loss, but it’s only slight. These are super bold and visually impressive paintings, but they leave you cold.