You have never heard art like this before - A survey of the pioneering turntablist, musician, sound video artist New York based Christian Marclay is the summer exhibition highlight at ACMI. Paul Andrew chats about punk influences in art with Christian Marclay.( INTERVIEWS Archive Copy October 2007 )
Herald of the punk revolution Patti Smith once described the legendary New York rock venue CBGB as more than just a club; she said it was a state of mind. During its heyday in the 1970s and 1980’s that seedy dive on The Bowery was the crucible for sonic revolutionaries like The Ramones, Talking Heads, Blondie, Television and for Smith herself who transformed rock into hypnotic chaos. It was also the stamping ground for video artist and musician Christian Marclay.
Punk was the quantum shift that helped us to hear music differently, and through this very same state of mind, Marclay helps us to see music differently. He has orchestrated an extraordinary body of work comprising turntable performances, videos and music sampling spanning three decades. Magically fusing music and image, whether it’s spinning discs, destroying discs, videoing discs or making a symphony from gunshots.
According to the artist,“ MTV is dead”. Marclay himself draws from art history, rather than pop music when it comes to “ seeing sound”. He counts the Fluxus artists like Joseph Beuys and performance artists John Cage, Laurie Anderson, Dan Graham and godfather of video art Nam June Paik among his key influences.
As a young art student with a passion for collecting vinyl Marclay relocated from Switzerland to New York with his parents during the mid 1970s. The punk scene was nascent. He cut his teeth at new music venues like CBGB. Preferring the raw energy of iconoclastic beats in small dark clubs rather than the staid white tenor of traditional art venues, museums and galleries.
“To me the new music at this time was punk. Seeing people making music and sounds happen in small clubs and experiencing music through their bodies. It gave me the opportunity to make music myself, I thought, if these people can make music, I can make music too. You didn’t have to repeat the music of your parents; you could turn rock and roll upside down. It wasn’t the fashion, it was the sounds. I never had a Mohawk or safety pins; I could go to clubs like CBGB, DNA, and MARS and see bands."
“When I started using video I was interested in the way that sounds could look, I used turntables to cut up sounds, used samples from films. I used vinyl records as objects that could make sounds themselves, not just the sounds recorded. Breaking them, smashing them, walking on them, bending them. And video allowed me to document these sounds.”
"After I moved to New York I was surprised at the amount of vinyl I could find very cheaply, at thrift shops, mountains of it. I had grown up with records, collected them treasured them, and they were sacred to me. Yet in the states no one seemed to want them anymore. It was disposable. So I started collecting. I used vinyl in my performances and video. It was a time when music was being mass-produced, and vinyl seemed to be losing its sacred, magic quality. In 1979 when I smashed vinyl it was a big thing, it said something. Not so much now.”
“ There wasn’t enough room for this huge piece in the recent Paris version of Replay. It’s very large scale, 160 objects, 16 monitors in a circle, like a ceremonial circle”, he notes.” I had the opportunity to work with the leftovers from Fluxus performance art preserved at the Walker Art Centre. But in this museum situation, I had to use white gloves to handle all these objects, which were now fragile, precious and behind glass. Commodities rather than inexpensive, everyday objects they once were. He says humbly, “ I was able to make sounds from these things, and for a moment put some new life into them”.
Thursday 15 November 2007 - Sunday 3 February 2008
Exhibition open daily 10am - 6pm and until 9pm on Thursdays
ACMI Screen Gallery
Exhibition conceived by the Cité de la Musique, Paris
Replay Christian Marclay is possible thanks to Christian Marclay, the owners of the artworks and the Cité de la Musique, Paris.
Featuring spectacular large scale projections and dramatic sound, Replay Christian Marclay is the first ever solo exhibition held in the Screen Gallery at ACMI.
Marclay's work explores the overlapping of realms of image and sound through video, film, sculpture, photography, installation, collage, music and DJ performances. His practice combines a sharp pop culture sensibility with the traditions of avant-garde artists including John Cage, Laurie Anderson and the Fluxus group.