Over the past 35 years, Christian Marclay has explored the fusion of fine art and audio cultures, transforming sounds and music into a visible, physical form through performance, collage, sculpture, installation, photography and video.
Marclay began his exploration into sound and art through performances with turntables in 1979, while he was still a student. Early work includes a series of ‘Recycled Records’ (1980-86), fragmented and reassembled vinyl records that became hybrid objects that could be played, replete with abrupt leaps in tone and sound. For his ‘Body Mix’ series (1991-92), he stitched together album covers into works to create strange phantasms of music and culture – such as Deutsche Grammaphon conductors with the slender legs of Tina Turner – that bring to mind Surrealist ‘Exquisite Corpses’. This transformation of musical instruments or objects to create visual puns is an essential component of Marclay’s work. Virtuoso (1999), for instance, features an accordion with its bellows elongated to more than seven metres. This playfulness with sound and image is also a feature of his ‘Snapshots’, an ongoing, informal series of photographs that depict elements of sound and onomatopoeia that the artist discovers in everyday situations.
Over the last decade, Marclay has created ambitious work in a variety of media. The video Guitar Drag (2000) features a Fender Stratocaster being dragged behind a pick-up truck along rough country roads in Texas. While on one level the work is an expression of Marclay’s interest in creating a new sound, it is also a nod to the guitar-destroying antics of rock stars as well as a reference to the murder of James Byrd Jr., an African-American man dragged to his death behind a pick-up truck. Video Quartet (2002), a four-screen projection featuring hundreds of clips from old Hollywood films, with actors and musicians making sound or playing instruments, represents a high point of his vision, an elaborate audio-visual collage that evokes pop culture, appropriation art and sampling. Marclay used a similar technique with Crossfire (2007), a four-screen video installation that surrounds the viewer with clips of actors handling and discharging guns directly at the viewer. The work is at once a musical composition, with the gunfire creating a powerfully rhythmic soundtrack, and an incisive re-imagining of one of cinema’s most common tropes. In 2010, he created The Clock from thousands of edited fragments, from a vast range of films to create a 24-hour single-channel video installation. While The Clock examines how time, plot and duration are depicted in cinema, the video is also a working timepiece that is synchronised to the local time zone. At any moment, the viewer can look at the work and use it to tell the time. Yet the audience watching The Clock experiences a vast range of narratives, settings and moods within the space of a few minutes, making time unravel in countless directions at once. With his six animation videos (2016), the artist explores the limits and concept of 'street photography'. Each animation is created by editing thousands of images taken during his daily walks through London, where Marclay shot commonly discarded objects found in the pavement (cigarette butts, bottle caps, chewing gums, cotton buds, plastic lids and straws). Countless photographs are layered in bombastic sequence, tricking the audience to perceive a conjured sense of motion: burnt cigarettes growing back and being consumed; colourful bottle caps flash and blend; hairy cotton buds wiggle; blobs of chewing gum divide and multiply like cells; and plastic straws rotate like clockwork.
Christian Marclay was born in California in 1955, raised in Switzerland and now lives in London. He has exhibited widely, including recent solo exhibitions at Sapporo Art Museum, Japan (2017), White Cube, London (2017 and 2015), Rencontres Internationales de la Photographie, Arles (2016), Aargauer Kunsthaus, Aarau (2015), Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2010), Barbican, London (2005), Fredericianum, Kassel (2003), Walker Art Centre, Minneapolis (2004), Tate Modern, London (2004), The Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami (2002), San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (2002). He was awarded the Golden Lion at the 2011 Biennale di Venezia for The Clock. Recent solo presentations of The Clock have included amongst others Tel Aviv Museum of Art (2018), Instituto Moreira Salles, São Paolo and Copenhagen Contemporary (2017), Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and Contemporary Arts Centre (2016), Walker Art Centre, Minneapolis (2014), SALT Beyoğlu, Beyoğlu (2014), Centre Pompidou, Paris(2014), Guggenheim Bilbao, Bilbao (2014), SFMoMA, San Francisco (2012), Ruhrtriennale, Bochum, Germany (2012), LACMA, Los Angeles (2011). Selected recent group exhibitions include Performance Process: 60 Years of Performance Art in Switzerland, Museum Tinguely, Basel (2017), The Artist’s Museum, ICA, Boston (2016), America is Hard to See, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2015), Fotomuseum Winterthur and Albertina, Vienna (2014), ‘Elevation 1049’, Gstaad (2014), ‘Blackboard: Teaching and Learning from Art’, Konsthall Artipelag, Gustavsberg, ‘Damage Control: Art and Destruction Since 1950’, Hirschhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington (2013), Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt, The Menil Collection, Houston (2012), 54th International Art Exhibition, La Biennale di Venezia (2011). Christian Marclay also continues to collaborate with musicians, including recent performances with Steve Beresford, Okkyung Lee, Shelley Hirsch and Otomo Yoshihide.