Collection Compulsion: Marco Brambilla and Christian Marclay

SyncThe often riveting moving image artwork of artist Marco Brambilla is currently on view at the Santa Monica Museum of Art in a show titled The Dark Lining, featuring seven video installations. Many of Brambilla's projects make use of imagery sampled from other sources, whether from Hollywood epic spectacles for the artist's dazzling 3-D projections, as in the complex and intriguing Evolution (Megaplex), or from pornography as in a project titled Sync, which features densely edited footage of sex, violence and audience faces to consider how we become inured to media images over time.

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The ClockIs it a coincidence that the other major media happening in LA was also composed of images sampled from the history of cinema?

Christian Marclay's 24-hour compilation film The Clock, recently acquired by LACMA, was featured last month for its full 24-hour screening time in the museum's Bing Theater. The film gathers together thousands of clips showing clocks and watches, and characters responding the demands and urgency of time culled from movies and TV shows. The screening of this expansive film is linked to the actual time of the venue presenting the project.

Both artists participate in a larger impulse to select and combine, to create a database and then call attention to the ways in which they've arranged that database. It's part of a larger cultural trend identified by several thinkers who see the logic of the database influencing many aspects of everyday life and culture.

Civilization BrambillaThat said, the soft-spoken Brambilla highlighted differences between his approach and Marclay's with The Clock in an interview a couple weeks ago. "I gravitate toward abstracting images," he said, "whether it's a frame-cut technique as in Sync, where each image is only up for two frames at a time and I've deconstructed the edit so that there is no editing, other than saying the two frames are the rule for this piece and so it becomes abstract in time, or the video pieces, which become abstract in spatial relationships and you're looking at 30 or 40 images coexisting at any one time. I think Christian's work is more about using the content itself to refer to the final work in an interesting way, whereas I suck all the narrative out of the clips."

Brambilla's comments are on target; he's less interested in the specific meaning of the imagery in his engaging video installations, and far more intrigued by how he can manipulate material to create an entirely new artwork. Marclay's film, in contrast, builds on our memories of the stories we see, however briefly, onscreen. For both, however, the desire to work with existing imagery, lots of it, constitutes a shared impulse, with--in both cases--stunning results.

The Dark Lining will be on view at the Santa Monica Museum of Art through August 2011. The Clock screens during regular museum hours in the Art of the Americas Building through July 3, 2011.

About the Author

Holly Willis teaches in USC's School of Cinematic Arts and writes about new media art.
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