Christian Marclay

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Christian Marclay
Marclay in 2012
Christian Marclay

(1955-01-11) 11 January 1955 (age 69)
NationalitySwiss; American
Known forVisual artist, composer
Notable workThe Clock

Christian Marclay (born January 11, 1955) is a visual artist and composer. He holds both American and Swiss nationality.

Marclay's work explores connections between sound, noise, photography, video and film. A pioneer of using gramophone records and turntables as musical instruments to create sound collages, Marclay is, in the words of critic Thom Jurek, perhaps the "unwitting inventor of turntablism."[1] His own use of turntables and records, beginning in the late 1970s, was developed independently of but roughly parallel to hip hop's use of the instrument.[2]

Early life and education[edit]

Christian Marclay was born on January 11, 1955, in San Rafael, Marin County, California, to a Swiss father and an American mother and raised in Geneva, Switzerland.[3][4] He studied at the Ecole Supérieure d'Art Visuel in Geneva (1975–1977), the Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston (1977–1980, Bachelor of Fine Arts) in the Studio for Interrelated Media Program, and the Cooper Union in New York (1978).[2][4] As a student he was notably interested in Joseph Beuys and the Fluxus movement of the 1960s and 1970s.[5] Long based in Manhattan, Marclay has in recent years divided his time between New York and London.[6]


Marclay in 1985

Citing the influence of John Cage, Yoko Ono and Vito Acconci, Marclay has long explored the rituals around making and collecting music.[7] Drawn to the energy of punk rock, he began creating songs, singing to music on pre-recorded backing tapes. Unable to recruit a drummer for his 1979 performances with guitarist Kurt Henry, Marclay used the regular rhythms of a skipping LP record as a percussion instrument.[8][9] These duos with Henry might be the first time a musician used records and turntables as interactive, improvising musical instruments.[10] Marclay sometimes manipulates or damages records to produce continuous loops and skips,[11] and has said he generally prefers inexpensive used records purchased at thrift shops, as opposed to other turntablists who often seek out specific recordings. In 1998, he claimed never to have paid more than US$1 for a record.[8] Marclay has occasionally cut and re-joined different LP records; when played on a turntable, these re-assembled records will combine snippets of different music in quick succession along with clicks or pops from the seams[12] – typical of noise music – and when the original LPs were made of differently-colored vinyl, the reassembled LPs can themselves be considered as works of art.

Some of Marclay's musical pieces are carefully recorded and edited plunderphonics-style; he is also active in free improvisation. He was filmed performing a duo with Erikm for the documentary Scratch. His scene didn't make the final cut, but is included among the DVD extras.

Marclay released Record Without a Cover on Recycled Records in 1985, "...designed to be sold without a jacket, not even a sleeve!" Accumulating dust and fingerprints would enhance the sound. A review in Spin at the time cited Marclay's "coolest theatrical gesture" in his live performances of phonoguitar: the artist strapped a record player onto himself and played, for example, a Jimi Hendrix album.[13] In his artwork Five Cubes (1989), he melted vinyl records into cubes.[14][15] The Sound of Silence (1988) is a black-and-white photograph of the Simon & Garfunkel single of the same title.[16]

Following this turn, Marclay has in more recent years produced visual art, although usually of representations of sound, or the various technologies of representing sound. His Graffiti Composition (2002) posted musical notes on walls around Berlin, compiled photographs of them as they faded, and is performed in concert. Shuffle (2007) and Ephemera (2009) are also musical scores. In Sound Holes (2007), he photographed the many patterns of speaker holes on intercoms. From 2007-2009 he worked with cyanotype at Graphicstudio to capture the motion of cassette tapes unspooling. And an interest in onomatopoeia dating back to 1989 has culminated in his monumental Manga Scroll (2010), a 60-foot scroll of cartoon interjections that doubles as a musical score.[17]

In 2010, he produced The Clock, a 24-hour compilation of time-related scenes from movies that debuted at London's White Cube gallery in 2010.[18] In 2016, he produced Made to Be Destroyed, a compilation of film clips showing the destruction of art works or buildings.[19]

Thom Jurek writes: "While many intellectuals have made wild pronouncements about Marclay and his art – and it is art, make no mistake – writing all sorts of blather about how he strips the adult century bare by his cutting up of vinyl records and pasting them together with parts from other vinyl records, they never seem to mention that these sound collages of his are charming, very human, and quite often intentionally hilarious."[20]

Marclay has performed and recorded both solo and in collaboration with many musicians, including John Zorn, William Hooker, Elliott Sharp, Otomo Yoshihide, Butch Morris, Shelley Hirsch, Flo Kaufmann and Crevice; he has also performed with the group Sonic Youth, and in other projects with Sonic Youth's members.

Other activities[edit]

Personal life[edit]

Marclay began dating curator Lydia Yee in 1991, and the couple married in 2011.[22]


At the 2011 Venice Biennale, representing the United States of America, Marclay was recognized as the best artist in the official exhibition, winning the Golden Lion for The Clock. Newsweek responded by naming Marclay one of the ten most important artists of today.[23] Accepting the Golden Lion, Marclay invoked Andy Warhol, thanking the jury "for giving The Clock its fifteen minutes".[24] In 2013, Dale Eisinger of Complex ranked Berlin Mix the 17th best work of performance art in history.[25]

In 2015, the White Cube presented a major solo exhibition including a range of new work and a lively programme of weekly performances played by the London Sinfonietta and guests, including Thurston Moore and Mica Levi.

Artist books[edit]

  • Ephemera, Bruxelles, mfc-michèle didier, 2009. Limited edition of 90 numbered and signed copies and 10 artist’s proofs. Voir mfc-michèle didier


  1. ^ All Music Review of More Encores: Christian Marclay Plays with the Records Of ... (1988). Retrieved 25 June 2011.
  2. ^ a b European Graduate School Biography Archived 27 May 2010 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 25 June 2011.
  3. ^ White Cube Biography., Retrieved 25 June 2011.
  4. ^ a b Paula Cooper Gallery Biography., Accessed 25 June 2011.]
  5. ^ Christian Marclay. "Christian Marclay | Biography, Albums, Streaming Links". AllMusic. Retrieved 6 March 2020.
  6. ^ Blake Gopnik, "The 10 Most Important Artists of Today" Archived 3 June 2015 at the Wayback Machine, Newsweek, 5 June 2011. Retrieved 25 June 2011.
  7. ^ Rachel Donado (27 February 2015), Splat! Beep! This Artist Sees in Sound The New York Times.
  8. ^ a b Christian Marclay (March 1998). "Interview with Christian Marclay". Perfect Sound Forever (Interview). Interviewed by Gross, Jason. Archived from the original on 4 October 2003. Retrieved 25 June 2011.
  9. ^ Smith, R. J. (January 1986). "Christian Marclay – Album without a Cover – Neutral". Spin. p. 32. Retrieved 5 May 2023 – via Google Books.
  10. ^ Kjetil Falkenberg Hansen, "Turntable Music" Archived 1 January 2010 at the Wayback Machine. Link dead 25 June 2011.
  11. ^ Salomé Voegelin, Listening to Noise and Silence: Towards a Philosophy of Sound Art (London: Continuum, 2010), pp. 60–62.
  12. ^ Salomé Voegelin, Listening to Noise and Silence: Towards a Philosophy of Sound Art (London: Continuum, 2010), pp. 60–61.
  13. ^ Smith, R.J. (January 1986). "Review of Album Without a Cover". Spin. Vol. 1, no. 9. p. 32. ISSN 0886-3032. Retrieved 11 May 2012.
  14. ^ Welzenbach, Michael (7 July 1990). "The Sounds of Silence". Washington Post. Retrieved 5 May 2023.
  15. ^ Nesbitt, Lois E. (September 1989). "Christian Marclay – Tom Cugliani Gallery". Art Forum. p. 146.
  16. ^ "Calendar – Event series – Christian Marclay". Walker Art Center. 2004. Retrieved 5 May 2023.
  17. ^ Tallman, Susan. "To the Last Syllable of Recorded Time: Christian Marclay," Art in Print, Vol. 6 No. 4 (November–December 2016).
  18. ^ "'It's impossible!' – Christian Marclay and the 24-hour clock made of movie clips | Art and design". The Guardian. Retrieved 6 March 2020.
  19. ^ "Christian Marclay | Made To Be Destroyed (2016)". Retrieved 6 March 2020.
  20. ^ Thom Jurek. "Live Improvisations - Christian Marclay | Songs, Reviews, Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved 6 March 2020.
  21. ^ Nate Freeman (15 September 2016), Swiss Institute to Move to St. Marks Place in the East Village Next Spring ARTnews.
  22. ^ Zalewski, Daniel (12 March 2012). "The Hours". The New Yorker. Retrieved 6 June 2015.
  23. ^ Blake Gopnik, "The 10 Most Important Artists of Today" Archived 3 June 2015 at the Wayback Machine, Newsweek, 5 June 2011. Retrieved 25 June 2011.
  24. ^ Andrew M. Goldstein and Julia Halperin, Rundown of the Winners of the Golden and Silver Lions at the 54th Venice Biennale", ARTINFO, 6 June 2011. Retrieved 25 June 2011.
  25. ^ Eisinger, Dale (9 April 2013). "The 25 Best Performance Art Pieces of All Time". Complex. Retrieved 28 February 2021.

External links[edit]