The greatest surprise of the week was for many art and music lovers, the Christian Marclay exhibition at Centre Pompidou which includes 40 years of work with 12 videos, assemblages and photographs. I had no idea about this musician’s talent until the curator, Jean Pierre Criqui, started telling us the story of the American/Swiss artist who uses turntables to make music and creates multiple visuals, stitching them together. He does not play an instrument but composes visual musical scores. The last paintings in the exhibition are explicitly musical with a series of “Screams” inspired by Edvard Munch.
When you first walk into the show, you have “Incognita” to your right and “Conductors” to your left. A series of record slips screwed or zipped together showing famous conductors with the Deutsche Grammophon yellow label or unspecified divas. These works belong to the time when the artist learned to work with a sowing machine and experienced his new technique! There will be more visuals stitched together in the following room. Multiple videos show him scratching on record players, thus creating his own specific sound and this is how we realize the importance of tying image to sound in his art.
The space devoted to the show is very large with 2 200 square meters of exhibition next to the Garouste show (which I encourage you to see if you have not already done so). It is the first and larger of its kind ever organized for the artist who, after California and New York, now lives in London. There are over 200 taped musics and his tribute to Brancusi, under the form of a column of records, is central to the first room. Drawing on a wide range of source material from John Cage to punk rock, Marclay creates a visual and audio vocabulary which is unique and full of humor.
You have to take your time around the show and sit down for a few minutes to watch the videos. The agility with which he twins images and sound is fascinating and hearing a telephone ring in the middle of a large room filled with distorted music instruments is very quirky. He set an old phone in a bird cage hanging above the visitors… transforms records into giant puppets, paints vinyl records to his liking and produces hilarious collages.
Marclay’s imagination is endless and I loved his “Galatea and Pygmalion” two large installations like pantomimes hanging on threads. Made of record sleeves and records, they play with each other as a couple. Chorus II is a group of 29 photographs in black and white hanging on a wall. They represent singers’ mouths and lips. “Abstract Music” is a group of four ink paintings. In the following room, a series of “graphic scores” will be played on February 4, in the museum for a concert. A modified accordion, “Virtuoso”, a “Lip Lock” made of a tuba and trompette, locks the possibility of playing either instrument, a stool with a French horn incrusted in the seat, all make for fun sculptures.
This is a show full of surprises where lightness enters our lives, a rare enough event these days…. So make sure to visit this exhibition which put me in a fabulous mood. The sense of humor and mix of visual and musical images is excellent. Until February 27, Centre Pompidou.
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