In 2001, Harvestworks digital media art center commissioned conceptual sound artist Christian Marclay to design the cover for a double LP DJ Noise mixing-set titled TELLUStools. At the time, I wasn't overly impressed by Marclay's photographs of strewn cassette tapes, but over the years the piece has grown on me. The cover art revealed the weight and beauty of work that came out of Tellus — a magazine on cassette best described as a noise label — over the last two decades. The loose tape pulled from these works may have been arranged, but it looked well used and almost alive in its placement.
The commission, which also included black and white photograms that accompanied the special edition (a process whereby an artist arranges objects on top of light sensitive paper and then exposes them to light to create a negative image), probably constitutes the most obvious predecessor to Marclay's recent endeavors with cyanotypes. Similar to photograms and blueprints, the large, undefined yet commanding images of pulled cassette tape at Paula Cooper Gallery often seem to present maps of lost sound. Others, like Untitled (Madonna, Thy Word and Sonic Youth), evoke the still aftermath of a concert or house party.
All of the work, however, seems distinctly quieter than earlier efforts: Marclay's use of a skipping record as a percussion instrument in 1979, for example, or his re-assembled records combining different music and colored LPs only a few years later. This isn't to say that type of work has been abandoned. In an adjacent room, a video work titled Looking for Love documents a record player with a bending needle continually skipping over its grooves. But the piece seems less invested than much of the sound work Marclay first became known for; the idea that heartache is less a broken record than a broken player is mildly clever at best.
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