Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Through October 14th
Written by Cathy Breslaw
August 27, 2019
For 35 years, artist Christian Marclay has examined the intersection between sound and image in his multidisciplinary work using performance, sculpture and video. Marclay’s new exhibition Sound Stories is the result of a collaboration with engineers at Snapchat, the multi-media messaging app that receives 3 ½ billion snaps per day. Drawing on sounds and images of everyday life, Marclay experimented with hundreds of thousands of publicly posted videos to create 5 immersive audio-visual installations, two of which are interactive, responding to visitor sounds and movements in the gallery spaces. A team of Snapchat engineers created algorithms using the posted videos, giving Marclay the “raw material” to de-construct and re-contextualize the recorded media.
Marclay made this statement: “Sound is too often ignored and purely incidental on most uploaded videos, image dominates, so I wanted to shift the focus on the sound. Sampling from millions of Snapchats was like having the largest ever collection of LPs to work with. Like a deejay, I started remixing these sounds.” These comments capture the spirit of the exhibition and it is interesting to note that Marclay does not use social media which makes his collaboration with Snapchat even more intriguing.
In All Together, Marclay used more than 400 snaps to create a composition that plays across 10 smartphones. The small screens with internal speakers are arranged at eye-level in a semi-circular wood structure and present an intimate space of synchronized sounds and images looped seamlessly from everyday moments publicly shared on the app.
Sound Tracks is a soundscape installation composed of eerie, unfamiliar noises generated by tablets whose sound is amplified through overhead circular speakers that also portray video images. Using Snapchat’s feature of “Turtle Mode”, the images are slowed down emphasizing static everyday activities.
The two screens in Tinsel Loop play a composition created by Marclay in 2005 by using an algorithm that searched sounds of millions of Snaps to match each note of the melody. The compositions are performed by fragments of Snapchat videos that match the pitch of each note, and, as the tune repeats itself a new series of fragments are used, each completely different.
The Organ is an interactive work where visitors are invited to play a keyboard in the center of the room. Working with engineers, Marclay developed an algorithm that locates sounds that correspond to musical notes. Each organ key triggers sets of snaps that closely match the note played, while a large visual screen displays a variety of people and situations.
Talk to Me/Sing to Me is an installation where visitors are invited to speak or sing into 42 smartphones suspended from the ceiling and placed at eye levels and spread throughout the gallery room. When a visitor speaks or sings into a phone, an algorithm uses speech detection and signal processing technology, the phones analyze voices in the room and respond by mimicking them.
While all 5 installations are fascinating in how they were produced, visitors will find the two interactive installations fun and engaging and worth the visit.