‘Music as a Physical Experience’: See How Artist Christian Marclay Fuses Sound With Image in His Conceptual Collages


“I was experimenting with records, melting them in my kitchen stove, and I think the fumes got to me,” the artist Christian Marclay said in an interview with Art21, with a hint of a wry smile on his face. “Then I had this dream that I ate a record.” That dream led to the 1992 work a stop-motion animated film that sees the artist taking large bites out of a vinyl LP. That sort of madcap energy and conceptual approach to art making is essential to Marclay’s practice, which focuses on sound in all of its forms.

In the exclusive interview filmed as part of the Art in the Twenty-First Century series, Marclay expands on his approach to sound, which grew out of spending time at clubs as a young man. “I enjoyed music as a physical experience,” he said, remembering the thumping bass “would just take over your body.” Throughout his career, Marclay has returned to the idea of sound as an object, citing Musique concrète, punk rock, and John Cage as influences on his conceptual approach to making work. He’s literally broken records to create a certain kind of sound, for one—putting destruction in the service of creation.

“I think it’s important to make discoveries through the knowledge of other people,” Marclay said, explaining how the act of collage has been integral as a theme in his work, cutting and pasting images, sounds, and movements together to create something new. Using technologies from stop-motion animation to Snapchat stories, Marclay has consistently probed what it means to be a sound artist. With “this is a new form of communication,” he said about the short-form video app, “people are creating their own language using image and sound.”

Right now, Marclay’s Snapchat project is on view as part of his eponymous exhibition at the Centre Pompidou, at which visitors can employ the app to transform the building’s facade into a musical instrument. The visual augmented reality experience animates the exterior of the building through the program dubbed “Playing Pompidou.”


Watch the video, which originally appeared as part of Art21’s series Art in the Twenty-First Century, below. “Christian Marclay” is on view at the Centre Pompidou through February 27, 2023.

This is an installment of “Art on Video,” a collaboration between Artnet News and Art21 that brings you clips of news-making artists. A new season of the nonprofit Art21’s flagship series Art in the Twenty-First Century is available now on PBS. Catch all episodes of other series, like New York Close Up and Extended Play, and learn about the organization’s educational programs at Art21.org.


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