View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms
Work No. 233 is one of twenty works produced by contemporary artists for the Cubitt Print Box in 2000. Cubitt is an artist-run gallery and studio complex in north London. In 2001 the complex moved from King’s Cross to Islington and the prints were commissioned as part of a drive to raise funds to help finance the move, and to support future exhibitions and events at the new gallery space. All the artists who contributed to the project had previously taken part in Cubitt’s programme. The portfolio was produced in an edition of 100 with twenty artists’ proofs; Tate’s copy is number sixty-six in the series.
Creed’s contribution to the Print Box is an inkjet print on ordinary white copy paper. At the top left hand corner the words ‘fuck off’ are printed in black ink in a simple sans serif font. In the bottom left hand corner the work’s title and edition number appear in the same font in a paler grey ink. Creed has signed and dated the print immediately above this line. The printed text is the size of lettering on an average printed document and the autograph above a line of printed text at the bottom of the page recalls the signature on a formal letter.
The work’s irreverent message appears discreet due to its small size and almost apologetic lower-case lettering; the blank expanse of the rest of the page, however, gives the words disproportionate weight and presence. This simultaneously self-effacing and assertive quality is typical of Creed’s work. His practice, which includes musical performance as well as object-making, often consists of small adjustments to everyday objects and situations by, for instance, positioning a small lump of Blu-Tack on a wall (Work No.79, 1993, private collection) or setting a timer to switch the lights on and off in thirty second bursts (Work No.127, 1995, private collection). His philosophy of making something out of nothing, and indeed nothing out of something, is summed up in the equation spelled out in his neon installation Work No. 232: the Whole World + the Work = the Whole World, 2000 (Tate T07769), which suggests that artistic creation is futile yet intrinsic to our experience of the world.
‘Fuck off’ is a command to disappear, to revert to nothingness. The apparent aggression in the statement aligns this print with other works by Creed which present the viewer with unexpected obstructions or commands. In Work No.115, 1995-99 (collection of the artist) a doorstop is positioned so as to allow a door to open only 45 degrees while the instructions for Work No.100, 1994-99 (private collection) stipulate that a stack of tiles be positioned ‘in an awkward place’ on a tiled floor. The mildly anarchic provocation in Creed’s print recalls the similarly blunt message in Giorgio Sadotti’s Don't Look, 2000 (Tate P78403) which is also included in the Print Box.
Godfrey Worsdale and Matthew Higgs, Martin Creed Works, exhibition catalogue, Southampton City Art Gallery, 2000.
Rachel Meredith, ‘Martin Creed’, Turner Prize 2001, exhibition leaflet, Tate Britain, 2001, pp.7-8.
Virginia Button and Charles Esche, eds., Intelligence: New British Art 2000, exhibition catalogue, Tate Britain, 2000, pp.49-51.