Christian Marclay Festival to Be Presented at the Whitney

New York – Artist/composer Christian Marclay (b. 1955), known for the distinctive fusion of sound and image in his art, is the subject of a major exhibition this summer at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Activated by daily musical performances, the show explores Marclay’s approach to the world around him with a particular focus on his “graphic scores.” Approximately fifty renowned instrumentalists and vocalists, some of whom have collaborated regularly with the artist over the course of the past three decades, are scheduled to interpret the scores exhibited, enabling museum audiences to experience Marclay’s work brought to life. The exhibition, curated by David Kiehl, the Whitney’s curator of prints and special collections, with Limor Tomer, adjunct curator of performing arts, will be on view from July 1 through September 26, 2010, in the Whitney’s fourth-floor Emily Fisher Landau Galleries.

Celebrated as a pioneer of turntablism, Marclay transforms sound and music into visual and physical forms; in the past, his work has included performance, photography, collages, sculpture, large-scale installations, and video. At the Whitney, a dozen scores by Marclay, including the premiere of a new scroll sixty feet in length designed to be interpreted by vocalists, and three scores conceived as projections, will be continually on view and performed on a regular basis. Visitors will be encouraged to make their own marks and compositions on a wall-sized chalkboard with musical staff lines, thereby creating a collective musical score which will be seen and heard throughout the run of the show.

For the past fifteen years, Marclay has created scores from sources as diverse as found objects, clothing, record covers, boxes, photographs, works on paper, collage, and video projections. All of these musical notations will be interpreted in innovative ways by musicians. Some examples of Marclay’s scores include: Ephemera (2009), a portfolio of photographed objects such as restaurant bills, flyers, book covers, and packaging for household articles, all replete with ready-made musical notations; Graffiti Composition (1996-2002), a project Marclay completed in Berlin in which blank sheet music was pasted up throughout the city to be scored, marked up, graffiti-tagged, or torn—and now a score for interpretation by musicians; Prêt-à-Porter (2010), a piece in which Marclay’s collection of clothing and accessories containing musical notations is worn by models while musicians interpret the notes on the garments; and Manga Scroll (2010), a brand new vocal score based on onomatopoeias from Japanese cartoons, which will receive its world premiere at the Whitney.

The exhibition will also include objects that are to be played by musicians, such as Wind Up Guitar (1994), a custom-made guitar fitted with twelve music boxes, and Sixty-four Bells and a Bow (2009), which involves the playing of glass, ceramic, and metal bells collected by the artist.

As Marclay himself has noted, “For the last decade I have been photographing musical notations that I find in everyday life. Musical symbols are often used as decoration or as trade emblems to signify music. They adorn the awning of a record store, the wall of a club, or the door handle of an instrument shop, but they can also be found in non-musical contexts such as fashion and advertising. These notations were created not by composers but rather by graphic designers, illustrators, and decorators, so they often contain errors, lack basic information, or are otherwise incomplete. They do not need to be correct because they are symbols; they stand for the essence of music, not specific notes. Their unconventionality also reminds me of the graphic scores of experimental music; they are their kitschy cousins. One can also use them as charts to play music. I hope these images will reveal unexpected sounds, rhythms, and even melodies.”

The Whitney is planning multiple scheduled performances daily, between July 1 and September 26, during regular museum hours (Wednesdays through Sundays), as well as special evening events on pay-what-you-wish Friday nights. Performances will take place in the main gallery of the exhibition and will range from solos to large ensembles. Participating musicians comprise a Who’s Who of the progressive and experimental music scene of the past thirty years and most have a long history of collaborating with Marclay. The performers include Butch Morris, a composer, cornetist, and principle innovator of “conduction,” a type of structured improvisation in which Morris directs and conducts an improvising ensemble with a series of gestures; Zeena Parkins, a multi-instrumentalist composer, improviser, and well-known pioneer of the electric harp; Marina Rosenfeld, turntablist, sound artist, composer, and creator of her own custom “dub plates”; and Elliott Sharp, experimental guitarist, composer, and improviser, who is central to the avant garde music scene in New York. Other performers include Anthony Coleman (piano), Okkyung Lee (cello/electronics), John Zorn (saxophone), Joan LaBarbara (voice), Mary Halvorson (guitar), David Moss (voice), o.blaat/Keiko Uenishi (electronics), Bill Frisell (guitar), Cyro Baptista (percussion), and Lee Ranaldo (guitar), among some fifty participating musicians.

Image: Christian Marclay, Graffiti Composition, 1996-2002. Portfolio of 150 digital prints. Printed by Muse X Editions, Los Angeles, published by Paula Cooper Gallery, New York. Courtesy the artist and Paula Cooper Gallery © Christian Marclay

Whitney Museum of American Art
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New York, NY 10021

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