Friday, July 28, 2006

Christian Marclay - Video Quartet

I had the chance to sit and view this piece in person when I was in New York. To say it had a profound effect on me would be a laughable understatement.
So what is it? Basically: 4 massive video screens juggling a multitude of scenes from hollywood movies, old and new, in which music (or sound) is somehow being made. So- Jack Nicholson playing piano in "Five Easy Pieces," Jack Nicholson banging on his typewriter in "The Shining," Jane Fonda humming softly to herself in "Barbarella," Michael J. Fox jamming on his guitar in "Back to the Future," Janet Leigh pulling her shower curtain off of it's hinges in "Psycho."
600 individual film samples make up the 13 minute long piece, each one painstakingly positioned in relation to it's neighbours in time and key. That's right, it's a piece of music, not just a cynical mishmash of discordant elements. At times boisterous and jubiliant, the piece also runs through movements of delicate solemnity and ephemeral beauty. At one point all four screens come to rest on four piano players (four different music styles from four different films from four different time periods, all tentatively playing off of each other to create something utterly unworldly.)
The effect the piece had on the small group of people who I shared the floor with was inspiring to behold. Genuine smiles all around, the kind of smiles that people seem to beam out whenever they are witness to something that reminds them that art-the potential for art, is all around them.