Transfixed by Christian Marclay (review of the exhibition at the White Cube Mason’s Yard)

In his two recent video artworks Christian Marclay wants us to look closer at things we usually pass by without giving them much thought or even a second glance. For his work entitled Look (compiled between 2016-2019) the acclaimed video artist took thousands of shots of a single word ‘LOOK’, a sight familiar from the streets of the UK. Those can be usually found on street crossings, and in especially high concentrations in London, where Marclay is based.

Look (3)
Christian Marclay Look (2019, Giclée print) (photo: Ground Impressions) 

Usually accompanied by LEFT or RIGHT the word LOOK on its own takes on a more ambiguous meaning. What is there to look at? Dead leaves, puddles, cigarette butts, or the feet of anonymous passers-by. A selection of prints is displayed on the walls to accompany the stop-motion animation, which combines thousands of LOOKs displayed a continuous loop. Inexplicably, Marclay manages to capture the attention with these slices of mundane urban life in a way that keeps you glued to the screen.

Look (2)
Christian Marclay exhibition, Look (single-channel animation and giclée prints),  general view (photo: Ground Impressions)

In a larger silent video installation Subtitled (2019) the artist combined slices from films played simultaneously on a large screen. Those horizontal strips of video were cut out from the bottom of the screen, where the subtitles usually appear. In this video collage decontextualized fragments of scenes are arranged on top of each other in seemingly random order, organized only by colour codes. The arrangement changes from tranquil blues and greens to orange and yellow explosions.

Christian Marclay Subtitled 2019
Christian Marclay Subtitled (2019, single-channel video installation, silent, continuous loop) (installation view, photo: Ground Impressions)

I found myself looking at the work for quite a long time in an otherwise empty and dark room. The moment I started wondering if there was any point to the video collage, I got my answer – one of subtitles on the screen said: He must be writing those words in unexpected sequences.


The screen kept sending more messages:

Sometimes reality is too complex.

Originality without purpose is useless.

Christian Marclay (b. 1955 California) was raised in Switzerland and is currently based in London. He is one of the world’s top video artists. His video projects are usually multi-layered and complex. Nothing is ever as it seems.


Christian Marclay exhibition is at the White Cube Mason’s Yard, London until 15 May 2019. Highly recommended.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s