Performed by Ami Yamasaki, on Saturday, September 16, at the Biennale opening.
For this work, Christian Marclay selected hundreds of onomatopoeias from English-language manga. He digitized them and pasted them together in a long sequence, combining graphic and visual logics. The letters run, wind, extend, tighten, refine and grow over some twenty meters.
Using a rice paper scroll (in the original version of the work), the artist links the current manga industry to a rich cultural history. Japan traces its comics tradition back to the 11th century, when it developed its own principles of narrative painting on scrolls, which it had previously borrowed from the Chinese.
The piece is a feast for the eyes, but it's also a score. Sound artist and performer Joan La Barbara premiered the piece in 2010 at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Since then, dozens of people have been invited by Christian Marclay to perform their own versions. In Sion, it's Japan's Ami Yamasaki we'll be hearing. She uses her voice, but also her whole body to render, without a microphone, the variety of human, animal, mechanical, natural... and sometimes mysterious sounds that onomatopoeia translates and that she in turn translates.
Public and performative recording session, Friday September 22 at La Centrale
While scouting the former Chandoline hydroelectric power station for the Sound Biennial, Christian Marclay was on the lookout for its history and sound qualities. It is these two aspects that he has chosen to highlight with a unique performance, with a view to recording.
The building was constructed in 1934. Designed by Daniele Buzzi from Ticino, it is recognized for its architectural qualities and its importance in the history of Valais' energy and industrial development. It has not been connected to the Grande Dixence dam since 2013. Its future is now cultural, and the Sound Biennial is one of the first players in this new life.
Yet the penstocks that for seven decades brought water down from the mountains to the plains still trace their way through the landscape, scars of a bygone era. Christian Marclay has chosen to activate them.
To achieve this, technical research was carried out, with expert calculations on the length of the various linear pipe sections and the gravitational acceleration of a non-liquid element in this pipe. Simulations were also carried out. The fact remains that in choosing to turn the old power station and its immense pipes into a giant musical instrument for a unique moment, Christian Marclay is taking the risk of the unexpected.
With the collaboration of a class from the HES-SO Valais-Wallis engineering school and its physics teacher, Roland Willa. This performance is made possible thanks to the support of Alpiq.
A first form of the work was created in the form of a disc - a single engraving, a lathe cut - presented as an installation in 1998. The object wore out and Christian Marclay, finding the concept still relevant, wanted to reformulate the piece. In 2020, the drastic London confinement provided the opportunity to attempt a new recording. The result proved too musical for the artist's ears, so he rethought the piece in space and made a new, more appropriate recording during a stay in New York. It is this new formulation that takes its ideal place on the stairs of La Centrale.
Three loudspeakers are suspended above the intermediate landings, each broadcasting a sound track with Christian Marclay's voice. Audiences are invited to go up and down the stairs to hear one word or the other clearly, the two blending together on the intermediate level.
The Ému/Muet sound palindrome thus takes on its full amplitude of meaning thanks to active listening and movement in space.
Diptych featuring two audiocassettes with unwound magnetic tapes, cyanotype prints, 76.5 x 57.2 cm each
Work presented as part of the exhibition Echos d'une collection - Works by Frac Franche-Comté
Mashup IV takes its title from pop music, and more specifically from the practice of combining two or more songs to create a new one. The term is also used in computing to describe a website that mixes data from several sources. The tangle of magnetic tapes ironizes the term. Indeed, it is this jumble that is the mashup, whereas the artist, who has made extensive use of collage in his work, presents a single image here in the form of a diptych.
This diptych is a cyanotype, a monochrome photographic technique that doesn't require a camera. It consists of placing objects on a photosensitive surface, leaving their imprint, in the manner of a photogram. Called "blueprints" because of their characteristic hue, cyanotypes were popularized by botanist Anna Atkins and widely used in architecture before digitization.
These cyanotypes made from magnetic tape - two or more, in diptychs or as a single image, are among Christan Marclay's many works that evoke music without producing it. It was a blueprint of this kind that served as the poster for Montreux Jazz in 2018.
Born in 1955 in California
Lives and works in London
His biographies often begin by declaring him the first turntablist, or platinum player, in history. A musician without an instrument, Christian Marclay began handling vinyl in New York in the 1980s, to the point of carrying a record player across his shoulder(Phonoguitar, 1983). He had returned to the USA, where he was born, in 1977 to finish art studies begun in Geneva, and was caught up in the effervescent musical world that was to shape his art. In 1989, he performed at the Jesuit church in Sion.
His exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in 2022 showed the breadth of a career in which sound is the moto perpetuo. Vinyl not only plays a role in DJ parties and collaborations with musicians such as Sonic Youth and John Zorn, it also becomes the basic material for numerous works of visual art, whether the artist is using it to line a floor on which the public is invited to walk(Footsteps, 1989), or sewing covers to create abstract montages or exquisite Frankensteinian cadavers (the Body Mix series, 1991-1992).
Christian Marclay pursues this spirit of collage with cinema. He edits extracts from the most heterogeneous films, where the characters are on the telephone(Telephones, 1995); where we see a watch, a clock or any other object telling the time(The Clock, a 24-hour work, a not-to-be-missed Golden Lion at the 2011 Venice Biennale); where the characters are constantly moving from one room to another(Doors, 2022). In each case, the soundtrack is meticulously crafted, with an eye to rhythm and the link between scenes.
Yet Christian Marclay can also create works that are completely silent, with a sonic impact only in our memories and imaginations, or in the activations that sometimes accompany them.
He imagines unplayable instruments (oversized drums, soft guitars...), photographs the instrument cases of street musicians with their small change(Street Music, 2002-2012), and above all collects onomatopoeia from comic strips to make collages, paintings, engravings, video installations and even scores.