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Christian Marclay, Screen Play, 2005. Single-channel video projection, black and white with color, silent; 29 min. Courtesy the artist.

Christian Marclay, Screen Play, 2005. Single-channel video projection, black and white with color, silent; 29 min. Courtesy the artist.

Artist/composer Christian Marclay (b. 1955) is known for his distinctive fusion of image and sound. Celebrated as a pioneer of turntablism, Marclay transforms sound and music into visual and physical forms through performance, collage, sculpture, large-scale installations, photography, and video. This groundbreaking Whitney exhibition—activated by daily concerts and continually evolving—explores Marclay’s approach to the world around him with a particular focus on his “graphic scores” for performance by musicians and vocalists. Visitors to the Whitney will be encouraged to mark up a wall-sized chalkboard, with musical staff lines, thereby creating a collective musical score which will be performed throughout the run of the show. Other Marclay scores, including the premiere of a new scrolled vocal work forty feet in length and three scores conceived as projections, will be continually on view and performed on a regular basis.  World renowned musicians and vocalists, some of whom have been regular collaborators with the artist for three decades, will interpret a dozen scores, enabling museum audiences to experience a less well known aspect of Marclay’s varied art practice.

Christian Marclay: Festival was organized by David Kiehl, Nancy and Fred Poses Curator, with Limor Tomer, adjunct curator of performing arts.

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Works from the Exhibition

Christian Marclay, Screen Play, 2005. Single-channel video projection, black-and-white with color, silent; 29 min. Courtesy the artist. © Christian Marclay
Christian Marclay, Zoom Zoom, 2008. Digital slide projection, color, silent. Courtesy the artist and Paula Cooper Gallery. © Christian Marclay
Christian Marclay, Screen Play, 2005. Single-channel video projection, black-and-white with color, silent; 29 min. Courtesy the artist. © Christian Marclay
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
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
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
Christian Marclay performing Swiss Mix (1996) at the Festival du Belluard, Fribourg, Switzerland, 1996. Courtesy the artist. © Christian Marclay. Photograph by Eliane Laubscher.

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Performances

For nearly thirty years, Christian Marclay has explored the distinctive fusion of image and sound through collage, performance, installation, photography, sculpture, and video. Although renowned as a pioneer of turntablism (the use of records and turntables as musical instruments) and sometimes referred to as a musician or composer, Marclay notes: “I make music the way a visual artist would. Sound and image are very closely intertwined in my work.” Since the late 1990s, Marclay has made a number of “graphic” scores, which defy the conventions of traditional music composition. Intended to elicit a musical response from performers, these works are created from videos, photographs, found images, and readymade objects culled from our everyday surroundings. Some of the scores on view here include: Ephemera (2009), a collection of printed matter such as restaurant bills, flyers, book covers, and throwaway packaging decorated with musical notations; Graffiti Composition (1996–2002), a portfolio of images documenting the public’s response to blank sheet music pasted around the streets of Berlin; and Manga Scroll (2010), a new lithograph based on onomatopoetic words found in comic books. 

During this exhibition, Marclay’s scores will be performed by approximately fifty celebrated musicians, some of whom have collaborated regularly with the artist during the course of the past three decades. These artists will appear in daily performances and in open rehearsals. Marclay’s scores are open to a multitude of interpretations; a single score inevitably yields radically different performances. The scores, instruments, and performance objects are displayed along with video documentation and recordings of past performances. By revealing what prompts the musician—whether the video projection Screen Play (2005) or the marks created by the public in Graffiti Composition—Marclay challenges his audience to play a more active role, altering the traditional dynamic among composer, performer, and listener. The artist’s newest piece Chalkboard (2010), created by visitors marking a chalkboard wall printed with staff lines in the gallery, will be periodically interpreted by musicians during the exhibition. We hope you will join us for multiple performances of these scores; each one will be completely different. Marclay’s unconventional approach to music ensures you will never hear the same thing twice.

Christian Marclay (born 1955) explores 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. Published in a 3-volume magazine format, this exhibition catalogue aims to capture the spontaneity of his process-oriented practice. Although the structure of the magazines is intentionally loose, there are some themes that each issue addresses: the first issue historically contextualizes Marclay’s work; the second addresses his early work and discusses the performances taking place at the Whitney; and the third looks at his later work and video scores.

This catalogue is no longer available at the Museum Shop.

View current publications

Review: "Just when it is most needed, 'Christian Marclay: Festival' takes the “me” out of performance art."
--The New York Times

Conversation: Christian Marclay at the Whitney: Two Critics Weigh In
--The New York Times ArtsBeat blog

"in keeping a fairly tight focus on the notion of the 'visual score,' curators David Kiehl and Limor Tomer give a concise cross section of [Marclay's] oeuvre"
--The Nation

Review: "[the exhibition] has a festiveness, a block-party atmosphere, rare in the contemporary avant-garde."
--The New Republic

"Marclay’s art exists in the exact spot in our brains where sight and sound sit down over a couple of beers, and everything in this marvelously on-message survey serves as a score or just an excuse to listen."
--New York

Video: Whitney art handlers erase the 79-foot "Chalkboard, 2010" and Anthony Coleman performs "Shuffle, 2007," a series of 72 cards printed with musical notes assembled by Christian Marclay
--WNYC

"Few artists have displayed such consistent discipline in their choice of themes as Marclay." 
--Artinfo

"Mary Halvorson Plays Christian Marclay at the Whitney"
--The Awl

"Marclay’s multilayered approach produces work that can be beguilingly lush or painfully poignant."
--Vogue

"Christian Marclay can make music out of almost anything."
--WNYC

"Overall, it's an incredibly focused gaze into New York's experimental music community."
--Interview

"Nineteen Top Shows"
--Artnet