Craig-Martin’s work at the Serpentine spans from the 1980s to the present, serving as indicators of technological shifts. “Because he has been drawing these objects since the 1970s, he has inadvertently charted this momentous change in communications, in how we interact with each other,” says Serpentine curator Rebecca Lewin. The abundance of subjects has increased just as swiftly as gadgets have been rendered obsolete. “When I did the first drawings,” says Craig-Martin in an interview with
in the show’s accompanying publication, “it was hard to imagine that these objects would ever disappear.”
It’s not surprising that Craig-Martin came of age in the era of Marshall McLuhan’s pioneering 1964 book Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, which yielded the theorist’s most celebrated and repeated line, “the medium is the message.” Nonetheless, in an advertising and media culture obsessed with “digital natives” and millennials, Craig-Martin’s generation is seldomly heard on the matter. This is, happily, redressed by “Transience,” through images of laptops, game consoles, and TVs, as well as new wallpaper, created just for the exhibition, showing a pattern of smartphones, flash drives, fluorescent lightbulbs, and other objects transformed, quite aptly, into a backdrop for his canvases.