For more than 35 years, Christian Marclay has been creating works with music at the heart of his process.
Born in 1955 in California, and Swiss of origin, Marclay came back to the United States in 1977, at a time when much of the musical experimentation, including No Wave and Punk Rock, had a strong influence on the art world. This period will influence his work, between experimental music and art:
Christian Marclay approaches music as a visual artist.
He created his first band The Bachelors, Even, in tribute to Marcel Duchamp and more particularly to "The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even", 1915-1923. He also performed with John Zorn, explored relations between sound and its visualization, with performances, concerts and installations.
It was during this first great period of experimentation that began his use of turntables and his practice of collages taking different forms, questioning, as rock and punk culture, the commercial use of disc and cultural industries.
Marclay assembles album covers, resulting in collages reminding surrealist's cadavre exquis. His practice of borrowing, sample, pursues Dada and Marcel Duchamp's ideas, and falls under Fluxus's emancipatory approach.
We were happy to produce in 2009 the collage "Ephemera", composed of 28 folios.
"Ephemera" is the result of the long-term accumulation of eclectic musical notations, gleaned from here and there in various advertisements, illustrations, menus, candy wrappings, etc. These ephemera have been assembled, photographed and reproduced in a series of 28 folios. From this ensemble of printed motifs, Christian Marclay has created a musical score named "Ephemera", which is intended to be played.
To represent sound, to give it a visual form, is an enterprise doomed to failure. A musical score evades this pitfall since it only constitutes the material support for reading, playing, or singing. It is a question of decoding a language, and even if not all are able to do it, everyone will nonetheless immediately recognize that they are dealing with written music. By extension, and in a deliberately ambiguous manner, a score can serve as a representation of music. These kitsch motifs thus present a disarming sight, insofar as nothing is really made to be played. We encounter unplayable elements, like keys of
G lost in the emptiness, or staves whose lines wander and fray…Marclay gives meaning to these ephemera, even if they would have never claimed it for themselves, the poor little things being neither truly musical scores nor artistic representations. Christian Marclay recently said in an interview : “The thing about The Clock is that, in terms of my work, it’s an outlier. Music is really my thing. It runs
through almost everything I’ve done.” In order to put into perspective the musical character at the heart of Christian Marclay's creative process, we decided to present "Ephemera" in correlation with the work of Saâdane Afif: "Lyrics". Saâdane Afif's practice is fundamentally linked to music. Scores,
instruments, recordings, concerts and posters are an important part of his artistic vocabulary. Considered "post-conceptual", his work explores the notions of interpretation or exchange and takes multiple forms (performances, objects, sculptures, texts, posters, neon lights). To him, exhibition is a pretext for production or activation. He transfers his texts and statements to the walls using an adhesive and holographic system. His works address themes such as the passage of time, appropriation, remake, repetition, the displacement of meaning, and criticism of institutions.
Since 2004, Saâdane Afif has been commissioning artists, writers, composers, or art critics to compose songs lyrics inspired by his works, to be exhibited alongside them. This approach allows a real
continuity, where there is little margin for the fixed nature of past works: being at the heart of a
network, they relive in the form of songs. A process allowing the artist to associate other personalities in his work's development, proposing a reflection on the artwork itself and highlighting the idea that it is never created alone : "it is a method that allows you to create mutations permanently, to mutate shapes, they mutate, they are not transformed, I can self-quote my work and it does not dry up, because there is always a contribution from the other."
"Lyrics"'s project has given rise to a book gathering 191 texts written by more than 100 authors over the past 15 years, published on the occasion of the eponymous exhibition of Wiels in Brussels in 2018.
We will present for this exhibition "Lyrics" written by Tacita Dean, André Magnin, Jonathan Monk, Emilie Pitoiset, Michael Riedel, Anri Sala and Sarah Ancelle Schönfeld, performed by musicians or singers with three concerts organised during the exhibition.
Marclay's and Afif's works have in common to not be confined to a single object or a single form, giving way to an orality and a musicality that they can evoke or to which they are destined.
"Ephemera" and "Lyrics" explore the interpretation arising from encounters with a work, recalling Marcel Duchamp's quote: "it is the viewer who does the work".
While "Lyrics" is a work resulting from requests to different authors, this new exhibition presents it in a new dimension: it becomes material and pretext for a new interpretation of "Ephemera".