Across a bank of four screens, Maria Callas, Jimi Hendrix, Marilyn Monroe and scores of other musicians and actors make some kind of sound, seemingly in response to each other—much like players in a musical ensemble. This is Christian Marclay’s “Video Quartet,” a publicly and critically acclaimed 14-minute DVD projection, on view November 14 through February 10 at the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University.
Christian Marclay, born in San Rafael, California, is a 57-year-old Swiss-American who has enthralled the art community for years with his musical, sculptural and video collage work. He has performed or recorded with Sonic Youth, Kronos Quartet and Merce Cunningham. His pieces are in the permanent collections of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Centre Pompidou. In 2011, he was recognized as the best artist in the Venice Biennale, winning the Golden Lion for his 24-hour, real-time synchronized video collage, “The Clock.”
Marclay created “Video Quartet” on a home computer, using an off-the-shelf editing/composing program. He sampled more than 700 Hollywood, animated or other films—first scrolling through thousands—to collect footage of people singing, playing instruments, tap dancing, knocking on doors or somehow making noise. He then choreographed the snippets into an entirely new, flowing narrative. His governing impulse as an artist, he has said, is to take what people find familiar and create a new experience.
Indeed, Connie Wolf, the John & Jill Freidenrich Director of the Cantor Arts Center, says she’s never seen anything like “Video Quartet.” “It’s absolutely mesmerizing. You’re lulled into this enchanting world of beautiful music and favorite films and remarkable pairings of actors and musicians. You won’t want to leave.”
The work is on loan from the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. The work is a gift of the artist and the Paula Cooper Gallery; commissioned by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and Musée d’Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean, Luxembourg with the generous support of the James Family Foundation.
This exhibition is made possible at Stanford by the Contemporary Collectors Circle, the Clumeck Fund, and Cantor Arts Center Members.