Over the past 30 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 large, 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 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. More recently he created The Clock (2010) from thousands of edited fragments, from a vast range of films to create a 24-hour, single-channel video. 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.
Christian Marclay was born in California in 1955, raised in Switzerland and now lives in London. He has exhibited widely, including solo exhibitions at Aargauer Kunsthaus, Aarau (2015), White Cube, London (2015), Whitney Museum of American Art (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), Kunsthaus Zurich, Zurich (1997), Whitney Art Museum, New York (1997). He was awarded the Golden Lion at the 2011 Biennale di Venezia for The Clock. Solo presentations of The Clock have included amongst others Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (2014), SALT Beyoğlu, Beyoğlu (2014), Centre Pompidou, Paris (2014), Guggenheim Bilbao, Bilbao (2014), SFMoMA, San Francisco (2012), Ruhrtriennale, Bochum, Germany (2012), Power Plant, Toronto (2012), LACMA, Los Angeles (2011), LEEUM Samsung Museum of Art, Seoul (2010), Musée d’Art Moderne et Contemporain, Geneva (2008), Cité de la Musique, Paris (2007) Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Sweden (2006), Barbican Art Gallery, London (2005), Seattle Art Museum, Seattle (2004), Tate Modern, London (2004), UCLA Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2003), and the SFMoMa, San Francisco (2001). Select group exhibitions include 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, The Kitchen, New York, Swiss Institute, New York, Yokohama Triennial, Yokohama (2011), British Art Show 7, Nottingham, Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead, Villa Arson, Nice (2010), Platform 2009, Seoul (2009), Vancouver Art Gallery (2008), Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Ridgefield, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, Musée d’Art Contemporain de Lyon (2007), La Maison Rouge, Paris (2006), Musée d’Art Contemporain, Avignon, France (2005), SITE Santa Fe, New Mexico (2003), Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2001) and Hayward Gallery, London (2000). Christian Marclay also continues to collaborate with musicians, including recent performances with Steve Beresford, Okkyung Lee, Shelley Hirsch and Otomo Yoshihide.