17 July 2012

A Measured Existence

One weird experience of the the past year has been watching an artist that I followed closely, and always been fascinated with, for almost three decades sort of majorly blow up in the artworld. And by the artworld, I mean the visual artworld, whereas the artist in question previously was a huge figure in the experimental music/sound art end of things, and something of a peripheral figure as far as the rest of all such art realms were concerned.

I'm talking about Christian Marclay, and the surprising unanimous accolades that he's received for his 24-hour video installation piece "The Clock," which was a huge award-winning success at the Venice Biennale back last June. The project having been a laborious effort for Marclay -- "ambitious" as they say, involving about 3 full years of intricate effort, with Marclay sinking deeply into a medium that he'd previously only dabbled with on and off over the years. I mention it, because the New Yorker had a long article about Marclay and "The Clock" some months ago, which went into a great deal of detail about the making of the piece, and (to my surprise) they made the whole thing available online. So, for the interested...there you have it.

While we're at it, here's his "Stop Talk" piece that he did back in 1990 for New American Radio. It's still available for download, though I should warn that the file's in Real Audio format, which might pose a problem if you don't have an Real player or a means to open/convert the file. But if that isn't a issue, while you're at it poke around at some of the other contributions in the NAR archives. An item of interest for some might be the entries from Don Joyce and Negativland; one of which is what amounts to an epic extended director's cut of "Guns!".


Anonymous said...

That New Yorker article is really good, thanks for that. When the Clock was about to be shown here is was predictably blown up into the most dumb and simple descriptive terms by all those talking about it. Front Row just gushed cliches about "remix culture" (like it was the early 90s, I almost expected the once obligatory reference to MTV) and used the word "marathon" with distressing regularity.
So I was utterly primed to be unable to enjoy the Clock when I finally saw it at the British Art Show, just once I sat down at just after 11, I only managed to stand up and leave just before 3. The only thing I'd ad to the NY piece is how uneasy it makes one as a viewer. Regardless of cinematic content, I think it's the loss of time, the awareness that rhythmic image has utterly grabbed you. Some of this is the what-nest-ness of the project but some is surely concerned with the abstract seduction of images and sounds which have been chosen in that was. Like it says in the review about the kinds of clips CM wanted, the 60s kettle and so forth, the content is lush. The film may be constructed around the rhythms of the clock but it also cuts another way, through atemporal/ a-narative pieces of "beautiful" (in the most technical sense of that word, in the Dave Hickey sense of it) film. When the concept falls away, as it does in the auditorium on the ikea sofas it's a really highly material work. I guess this is true of most of Cm's stuff, even though it seems so readily mislabeled as being about the "why", about (writers, reviewers) wrapping a story about something.

Greyhoos said...

> gushed cliches about "remix culture"


Hey, Ralph. Yes, your point about it being a highly material work is an interesting one, raising an aspect (viz the viewing experience) that I hadn't considered much. Marclay's past work has always been deeply rooted in base materialism; and in that respect I thought "The Clock" marked something of a significant departure. In some ways its no different than his prior themes -- ultimately the mechanics of a particular medium of recording, the "spectral" nature of recording, and etc. But I think "The Clock" is more expansive in many respects -- its ontological scope far broader. If his prior output made me think of (for example) Jean Tinguely, this one makes lands more squarely in the court of Samuel Beckett.

Anonymous said...


Beckett is a great example because his work (mostly) refuses Kantian split between material and form. Marclay might be doing something that examines the mechanics of a medium and therefor utilizing an audience's prior knowledge but the work by no means stops short at the Post-Modern drop off ("here's a sign, look at this sign, it's all just signs all the way down"), even if it sounds like Jay Joplin thinks it does if he thinks the work would function on a tv in a dining room. Just as Beckett is more than "theatre in which nothing happens" Clock is more than just an editing conceit. Both also give a viewing experience which is not accounted for by the concept (if this was not the case then in both instances the response would be little more then "heh".)

This blog is really good by the way, I have no idea how you sustain it!

Greyhoos said...

I was also thinking, as far as the mechanics part was concerned, about the way film (as in celluloid) works -- the contrived frames-per-second and reels and sprocketing and etc., all of it engineered to sync with the zoetropic "phi phenomenon" biz, thus achieving the movement of "moving pictures," which ultimately makes it able to enfold (rather than merely imply) a narrative, a sequence of events unfolding over time. And what's involved in that temporality, that duration, including the ticking of a clock (another contrivance) as it counts off the hours, minutes and seconds of one's existence; which ultimately has something to do with why, after someone has sat through a shitty film, they might complain, "I want Michael Bay to give me back those last two hours of my life." So by dragging Beckett into it, I had something more flatly "existential" in mind, as well.

> This blog is really good by the way

Thanks, Ralph. Very much appreciated.

> I have no idea how you sustain it!

Sustain = waxes & wanes. And more like wane lately, with lots of thin, off-the-cuff stuff since I've been busy with other things.

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