How conceptual art helped heal my broken heart

Martin Creed's ex-girlfriend discusses her quirky cure

An empty room with the lights going on and off, athletes running through a hallway or a piece of blu-tack stuck to a wall: as Martin Creed knows, anything can become art, given a little conceptual tweaking. What about a relationship, though? Or the end of one? Three years ago, Creed met a young artist/comedian called Miriam Elia. Now Elia, 29, has taken the lead from her ex-boyfriend and has fashioned their brief encounter into an artwork, entitled I Fell In Love With a Conceptual Artist, and It Was Totally Meaningless!!!

"It was a response to heartbreak, like so much popular culture," says Elia. "I was really upset so I wrote my feelings down and they, in turn, made me laugh because they seemed so clichéd." She wrote in to the True Life section of Take a Break with her story, aping the magazine's signature style, and sprinkling it with tongue-in-cheek references to Creed's most famous works. "He giggled and I found him instantly attractive; THE LIGHT BULB WAS SWITCHED ON", she wrote. "He had built an installation in my heart, and there was no escaping it. We spent hours drinking wine, laughing and watching films of some girl projectile vomiting in a gallery. It was the most romantic time of my life."

When the magazine rejected the story – according to its editor, Elia says, it was not harrowing enough – the Saatchi Gallery picked up the comical piece and published it online.

Now, to mark the 10th anniversary of Creed winning the Turner Prize with The Lights Going On and Off, Elia is staging an installation dedicated to her abortive romance in a deconsecrated church in north London. The project – one part Tracey Emin to two parts Miranda July – will feature the magazine story that never was blown up "out of all proportion" on an illuminated billboard, while a choir will sing "meaningless" boy-band ballads. "It will be like a Boyzone video. Lots of smoke and candles," says Elia. "It should be quite cathartic. I want people to laugh at it, but at the same time it's still quite painful for me."

Elia graduated from the Royal College of Art in 2006, but quickly became disillusioned with the emptiness of much modern conceptual art. She turned to comedy, writing for Mitchell and Webb and Jessica Stevenson, as well as her own BBC Radio 4 show, A Series of Psychotic Episodes, which satirised the contemporary art scene and was nominated for a Sony Award. A book based on one of its recurring characters, an existentially troubled hamster, will be published next year.

Elia met Creed when she was performing stand-up at Shoreditch Town Hall in 2008. Creed was playing at the same gig with his band and the two bonded backstage. "When he first asked me out, I remember saying to my Mum, 'I should go, I might get some material out of it'," she recalls. "In fact it was Martin who got me back into making art. He tried to make me understand that comedy and conceptual art are not all that different. Duchamp was funny. Some of Martin's work is very funny. It's screaming out for someone to make the connection."

Elia is working on further connections. In the meantime, audiences will have to draw their own conclusions as to whether they're looking at true heartbreak or an elaborate artworld hoax. "I guess people will take what they want from it. Which is exactly the kind of thing Martin would say." Creed, now in a relationship with a psychoanalyst, was unavailable for comment. Has Elia shown him the artwork? "We haven't talked about it but I think he knows that it's more about me than it is about him."

The Nave Church, St Paul's Road, London N1 (www.aubingallery.com) 9 to 11 December

Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West is on his 'Yeezus' tour at the moment

Music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam