My recent trip to Europe ended up in Barcelona, sneaking from one dark room to another in the hotel where I was staying. But let me assure you, I was doing this for all the right reasons. About fifty art dealers from around the world gathered there for Loop, an annual video art fair. Each dealer, in his or her room, was allowed to show only one video work by one artist. Corridors were crowded with people going in and out of these small hotel rooms, converted temporarily into darkened galleries.
One room was especially crowded all day long. People were sitting on the bed, on the couch or just standing in the few remaining square feet of the room occupied by Los Angeles gallerist Christopher Grimes. Look at the picture on the KCRW website; everyone is wearing dark 3-D glasses to experience at its fullest the fascinating, intentionally bombastic video by American artist Marco Brambilla. Throbbing music by Prokofiev from his ballet Romeo and Juliet is playing nonstop at full blast.
A successful film director in his own right, Marco Brambilla, in the last ten years, shifted his focus to video and photography projects. Evolution, his latest video, is only a few minutes long, but you would never guess. Consisting of hundreds, if not thousands, of clips from Hollywood blockbuster movies — ingeniously stitched together into a gigantic quilt — this video is the ultimate homage to the magic of movie making. But there is also a healthy dose of irony there, as if to acknowledge the formulaic and bombastic tendencies of so many big budget movies. Just look at the voluptuous Raquel Welch strutting her stuff or super-macho Clint Eastwood marching back and forth across the screen and you get the idea.
You can check out all this for yourself here, at Santa Monica Museum of Art, where the first-ever museum show of Marco Brambilla's video works opened two weeks ago. Just one hour after my plane from Barcelona landed in L.A., I was already at the opening of his museum show, going through the labyrinth of the darkened galleries with various videos done by him over the last decade. And once again, the biggest crowd stood in front of a large screen, transfixed by Evolution, the latest and most ambitious work by Marco Brambilla.
In the last couple of decades, video art has slowly been shaking off its status as stepchild in the world of art-making. These days, it's resolutely the darling of the international art scene. Last weekend brought the news that the American artist Christian Marclay just won the Golden Lion Award at the Venice Biennale for his much admired and talked-about video. Once again — lucky us — we can check out this truly astounding, 24-hour long video work, continuously playing here at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. There, in a large darkened gallery, you will find people stretching out on big white sofas, spending hour upon hour watching the Marclay video, hypnotized by its cleverness and virtuosity. Altogether, it's pure theater.
Titled The Clock, it consists of millions of movie clips with continuous reference to the passing time. Every clip shows the hands of a clock moving forward yet another second or minute, and the astounding thing is that the onscreen time always corresponds with the actual time of your being in the museum watching this very video. One wants to congratulate LACMA on its prescient purchase of this video in April for just under half a million dollars. I wouldn't be surprised if the Christain Marclay video, with the Golden Lion Award attached to it, soon commands a healthy price of a million bucks and major museums and billionaire collectors fight for the honor of owning it.
Banner image: Christian Marclay, The Clock, 2010; video stills, courtesy the artist, White Cube Gallery and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art