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Christian Marclay: Surround Sounds

March 26 – September 03, 2019
Christian Marclay, Surround Sounds, 2014–2015. Digital animation video installation (color, silent), 13:40 minutes. Still courtesy of the artist and Paula Cooper Gallery, New York

Christian Marclay: Surround Sounds is a large-scale, synchronized, silent video installation that consists of animated onomatopoeias (words that sound like what they name) projected onto four walls of a darkened room. Marclay sampled the words from a collection of comic books, cutting out expressive fonts in bold colors that represent sound effects and animating them in a way that suggests their acoustic properties. “Whizz” and “zoom” speed across the walls; “beep” blinks persistently, while “thump” falls rhythmically onto the floor. Although silent, the work plays like a musical composition, merging the auditory with the visual and providing an immersive perceptual experience.

For more than thirty years, Marclay has been exploring the visualization of sound, creating works in which these two distinct sensory experiences enrich and challenge one other. In Surround Sounds, the silent yet symphonic frenzy of illustrated words speaks only through most viewers’ memory of noise. Visitors may instead “hear” with their eyes, building an imagined auditory narrative.

This video installation contains strobe-like repetition.

Absence is a void to be filled with one’s own stories. I find silence is much more powerful because … in silence we can think about sound. Silence is the negative space that defines sound

Artist Christian Marclay, in a 1997 interview


The presentation of Christian Marclay: Surround Sounds at the Nasher Museum is made possible by the Marilyn M. Arthur Fund; Victor and Lenore Behar Endowment Fund; Parker & Otis; Arthur and Caroline Rogers; and Nancy A. Nasher and David J. Haemisegger.

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