Critics’ Picks

Video Quartet, 2002.

Video Quartet, 2002.

San Francisco

Christian Marclay: Sampling

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA)
151 Third Street
April 11–July 28, 2002

It’s no surprise that this year’s stock of summer blockbuster movies are drained of soul or even basic narrative pleasure. But who would have expected Christian Marclay to fill in the gaps left by Hollywood’s increasingly cartoonish fare? Marclay’s Video Quartet, 2002, a new four-screen DVD installation, commissioned by the San Francisco MoMA, is a thirteen-minute-long musical epic that’s got more cinematic zest than anything served up recently by the studios. The installation is a Cinemascope-scale, laptop-edited pop composition of sound and image made of thousands of film clips, from Hollywood and elsewhere. The barrage of images includes the hands of various piano players, Charlotte Moorman, Barbarella, dueling banjos, Ella Fitzgerald and Rita Hayworth crooning, and Janet Leigh screaming in the shower. Projected simultaneously, adjusted only for sound levels, they form a rhythmic piece that’s epic in scale and utterly mesmerizing. Marclay’s long-standing interest in giving notions of sound and music added dimension comes full flower here, and like any successful summer blockbuster, it seems to be developing loyal audiences who come back for repeat viewings. It’s on a double bill with Marclay’s 1989 Tape Fall, a succinct, meditative, and sculptural merging of sound (gurgling water) and object (audiotape).