Record Players - Christian Marclay


Signal to Noise Ratio


Signal to Noise Ratio
1974-84, 71 min
Compiled by The Netherlands Media Art Institute, Montevideo/Time Based Arts

In the works of the Signal to Noise Ratio series, “the medium is the message”. Their strength and beauty lie in their energy and simple insights.

One of the cultural phenomena brought about by the spiritual upheavals and technological innovations of the 1960's was video art. In 1971, in Manhattan, New York, Steina and Woody Vasulka founded The Kitchen which became an important centre for electronic art. If traditional photography and film were seen, according to the term coined by the artist couple, as “the space before the lens”, the Vasulkas held a particular interest in “the space behind the lens”. They concretized the idea of inner pictures in their numerous works based on psychedelic images and sound manipulation. Noisefields is an LSD-influenced flicker video, Reminiscence and Violin Power more subtle synesthesia experiments far ahead of their time.

The monumental “space-time work” Raum hören und Raum sehen by Valie Export and Christian Michelis is performance video at its toughest. The artist stands in an empty room. Only the position of the camera and the pitch of the hum just audible in room vary. “The body is simultaneously a transmitter and a receiver,” Gary Hill has indisputably stated when explaining the fundamental themes of his works. In the philosophical Soundings he contemplates “the abstract relationship between sound and materia”. The monologue soundtrack of the video is heard from a speaker under attack; nails are hammered in it and sand and water are poured over it.

In a performance filmed in the Netherlands in 1977, Laurie Anderson introduces in a very straightforward and graphic way the tape-bow violin that later became her trademark. The traditional horsehairs of the bow have been replaced with a piece of audio tape. The tape contains speech, and the performance is made up of palindromes such as the Lenin quote “ethics is the aesthetics of the future”, produced by 'bowing' back and forth.

The last piece in the programme, Record Players is a humorous example of the early works of the musician and visual artist Christian Marclay. A group of assistants “play” vinyl records by hand, scratching, rubbing, breaking and finally crushing them with their feet. New Yorker Marclay is known as a pioneer of avant-garde “turntablism” and record recycling. His music is brutal collage that shamelessly mixes source materials from different eras. Marclay has also produced enigmatic sculptures and installations using raw materials such as records, record sleeves, c-cassettes, miniature or giant musical instruments, instruments screwed on to furniture, and huge, room-filling telephone receivers. MT

Sunday 11.11.2001 - Kiasma Theatre
16:00 - Signal to Noise Ratio screening

The Vasulkas: Noisefields (USA, 1974, 13 min)
Valie Export: Raum sehen und Raum hören (AUT/GER, 1974, 9 min)
The Vasulkas: Reminiscence (USA, 1974, 5 min)
Laurie Anderson: Songs for Lines (USA/NL, 1977, 9 min)
The Vasulkas: Violin Power (USA, 1978, 11 min)
Gary Hill: Soundings (USA, 1979, 19 min)
Christian Marclay: Record Players (USA, 1984, 4 min)