American and Swiss artist Christian Marclay emphasizes “the process.” He deconstructs seemingly simple actions further into finite elements and creates collages from the scraps. Before Video Quartet and his monumental 24-hour effort The Clock was Telephones (1995), a piecemeal video collage, part of our permanent collection, that plunders 130 Hollywood films.
Using his building blocks – dialing, greeting, conversing, farewells and hang-ups - Marclay plays with the notion of cinematic continuity by splicing newer and older films into his own narrative. The video opens with a man walking into a booth, the word “telephone” in all caps, he slowly dials. His action is followed by several more clips of dialing, technology jumps from clunky rotary dialers from the pre-area code days to “up-to-date” push buttons phones (apple would later, ahem, appropriate the spirit of Telelphones for an ad). Perhaps most impressive is Marclay’s ability to create a story from such disparate sources. Clips begin to talk to one another – A man speaks deliberately into the mouthpiece “I haven’t been able to think or concentrate on anything except you.” the video cuts to a second man who hesitantly says “I see….”
Telephones is book-ended by with the camera pulling out from a woman whose call has abruptly ended, she stutters “h-hello?” and slowly hangs up the phone. The word “TELEPHONE” looms above her.
Telephones is part of The Cinematic Impulse.
Christian Marclay, Telephones (still), 1995. Video (color, sound); 7:30 minute loop. Collection of the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, Durham, NC. Gift of Christian Marclay and Paula Cooper, 2009.7.1. Image courtesy Paula Cooper Gallery, New York. ©Christian Marclay.