Layers of Time 01

museum in progress asks: Michael Craig-Martin

For museum in progress’ exhibition series ‘Layers of Time’ in DATUM you chose the year 1917 as basis for your artwork. What significance does this year have for you, what do you associate with it?

I tried to discover if there was a single year in the early 20th century in which an artwork and a design object of historical importance had been created. I was surprised to find that two such works, so utterly different from each other and of such seminal importance, were created in the same year: 1917.

Have you worked on this subject before in other pieces of art?

Yes. Last year I made a set of 10 prints (Art and Design) that each put together an artwork by a great 20th century artist with a design work by a similarly great designer (eg. Johns and Aalto, Magritte and Saarinen, Koons and Corbusier). I was thinking about the fame and familiarity of all these objects, but not about specific years, or even about whether the artist and designer were direct contemporaries.

Which aspects of your artistic work are especially important to you?

Directness, simplicity and clarity.

If you could determine one of your works of art to outlast the course of time and to be still admired in the far future, which would you choose?

I made An oak tree in 1973. It consists of a glass of water on a glass shelf and an accompanying text in the form of an auto-interview in which I claim to have turned the glass of water into an oak tree. It is already my best known work, has been shown all over the world, and continues to attract new interest. It therefore has a headstart on being remembered of anything I’ve done.

Are significant personal experiences important for your art? If yes: Could you give an example?

One of the most striking things about being an artist is that every experience – important or not – is potentially of use. For instance whenever I am asked to do something I have not previously considered, I always try to say yes. I did that in this instance, and it enabled me to make a new work that I am happy with. I might never have done it otherwise.

What is the appeal in creating a work of art for public spaces or the media?

I like creating artworks that are available to a lot of people in the course of their daily lives in contexts that are not primarily or self-consciously focussed on art, like galleries or museums.

To what extent should art fulfil any socio-political tasks?

I don’t think there is anything art ‘should’ do. Some artworks seek to be identified with specific socio-political issues, but it is rare to find one that could be described as ‘fulfilling a socio-political task’. I am interested in socially engaged work that extends the belief that the viewer has an essential role in completing an artwork.

How would you characterise good art?

Good art stimulates the imagination.

What are the limits of art?

The limits of the imagination.

All participating artists of ‘Layers of Time’ are asked to answer the same questions. In this way the serial character of the project is emphasised as well as the artists’ individual points of view, and the interested readers get additional information about the works and their creators.