Exclusive Interview: bass clarinettist Gareth Davis on Christian Marclay’s Czech premiere of To Be Continued…
Renown Swiss-American artist Christian Marclay, perhaps best known for his Venice Biennale Golden Lion Award-winning video piece The Clock, will be performing three of his critically acclaimed audiovisual works for the first time ever in the Czech Republic at The Brno House of Arts on Wednesday. Photo: Casadei Graphics
The three Czech premieres will include To Be Continued… (2016), Graffiti Composition (2005) and Shuffle (2007), and will be accompanied by a fourth performance, a composition by American guitarist and long-time collaborator of Marclay, Elliott Sharp.
Accompanying Marclay and Sharp will be Swiss trombonist Roland Dahinden and Anglo-Dutch bass clarinettist Gareth Davis, who sat down with Brno Daily to discuss the upcoming performances.
While Marclay’s work might generally be described as avant-garde, it is difficult to categorise his pieces into genres that are commonly spoken of today. He has collaborated with diverse artists ranging from Yoko Ono to Sonic Youth over the course of his career, and his varied influences find expression in his work.
“Sometimes I’m a little careful in how I describe something because if you call something ‘street art’, well, people have an idea now of graffiti art, or tags, or fonts, or how people are writing something on the wall. And this is, we’re talking 40 years ago, so it’s kind of street art before street art,” Davis said of Marclay’s street art and installations.
Marclay was also a pioneer in using turntables in his performances, or as Davis refers to it, “deejaying before deejaying existed.” But most of his work, according to Davis, can be described as falling somewhere between an art installation and a performance.
Marclay’s work, including the three compositions to be performed this week in the foyer of The Brno House of Arts, also frequently have a strong musical component.
Graffiti Composition involves an innovative approach in which the musicians, instead of playing from notes written on conventional sheet music, play from images that are presented to them (and to the audience). The images are of graffiti and street installations, some created (or prompted) by Marclay himself and some captured as they were found, in the streets of Berlin.
“What he was interested in was what would happen if you put non-musical images on top of something which is meant to be musical,” Davis explained. “He was interested in how images would create mood, but also how images would affect the mind and the actions of somebody who has learned to read music in a certain way.”
To Be Continued . . . is similar in how it is performed by the musicians, but instead of images of art taken from the streets of Berlin, the visual prompts presented to the musicians (and projected for the audience to see) are of comic book characters, both a montage of published characters and some of Marclay’s own creation. Each musician then follows his character through the story, producing a musical interpretation of the narrative.
Shuffle, on the other hand, is an improvised card game set to music.
The musicians set rules for the card game to be played and then, while playing, make use of the images on the cards that are drawn to inspire their musical output. The images on the cards are all related to music in some way, and have been selected and captured from urban environments by the artist himself.
Elliott Sharp’s Sylva Sylvarum (2014) was created through what might be described as the reverse of Marclay’s creative process. Sharp began with a musical composition and from this created video, from which the musicians will perform during Wednesday’s show.
“It’s a video piece . . . like a live soundtrack, in a way, would be a way of describing it. So it’s live music and silent video,” explained Davis.
The work is “a homage to the 17th century ‘paper laboratory’ of the English philosopher Francis Bacon,” according to the official press release.
Tickets will be available at the venue on the day of the performance (March 21), which begins at 7:30pm at The Brno House of Arts (Dům umění města Brna, Malinovského náměstí 652/2), but the public is encouraged to check for updates regarding ticketing on the Facebook page for this special event.
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