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Christian Marclay

Why is it that politicians might say “look” to emphasize a point, when they really mean “listen”? And why would we confirm “I see” to instructions given over the telephone, when we really mean “I hear”? For more than two decades, Christian Marclay has been creating artworks that explore and exploit such quirks.

Marclay’s visual art practice, which includes video installations, sculpture, photography, and collage, addresses the overlapping of aural and visual realms, reflecting on the relationship between sound and image. For example, The Sound of Silence (1988) is simply a photograph of the vinyl single of the same name by Simon and Garfunkel. Though mute, it can’t help but trigger the sound of the familiar duet in our heads and all the memories that come with it-less in our “mind’s eye” than in our “mind’s ear.” His work is full of such nods to popular culture, but he also plays on the tradition of an expanded idea of music inherited from avant-garde composers like John Cage.

Marclay is also a prolific musician. He has performed throughout Europe, Japan, and across the United States, including New York City, where he lives and works, with collaborators as diverse as the Kronos Quartet, Sonic Youth, and John Zorn. As a pioneer of “turntablism,” he was sampling records before the term was invented. He’s variously recombined fragments of broken records, released an LP without a protective sleeve, and DJ-ed with 12 turntables at the same time–all moves that capitalize on the effects of the happy accident.


Visual artist/experimental musician Christian Marclay recently visited the Twin Cities to record footage for a new video work based on the Walker’s extensive Fluxus art collection. To debut during a June exhibition copresented with Franklin Art Works, the video installation is the first project of the artist’s yearlong residency, which will also include musical performances, the creation of a sound installation, and a curated film series. Marclay recently took time from his busy schedule to answer some of life’s most–and possibly least–pressing questions. This rare inside view is the first in a continuing series of eight-query quizzes that offers a glimpse into the mind of an artist.

  1. What artist or art form turned your world upside down when you were a teenager?

Hearing the Beatles’ “Revolution Nine” on their White Album.

  1. What have you been listening to lately?

Carla Bozulich, Gal Costa, Arto Lindsay.

  1. What have you been reading lately?

Too many e-mails, and short stories by Haruki Murakami.

  1. What unexpected thing most influences your art?

The weather.

  1. What is your least favorite sound?


  1. What is your favorite euphemism?


  1. Name an image from past visits to the Twin Cities that you can’t get out of your mind.

An outdoor accordionists’ convention in downtown Minneapolis.

  1. When did you realize that you were an artist?

The question should be “When did people start thinking I was an artist.”