From May 17 through July 6, 2003, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, in collaboration with Relâche, Inc. and Relâche Ensemble, presents The Bell and the Glass by acclaimed composer and visual artist Christian Marclay (born 1955). The multi-faceted, multi-media installation and its accompanying musical composition are inspired by the artist’s interest in two Philadelphia icons: the Liberty Bell and The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (The Large Glass) by Marcel Duchamp. The project is the seventh in a series of Museum Studies installations by living artists created specifically for the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and it is the fifth in the 2002/03 Future Sounds series by Relâche Ensemble. The Bell and the Glass is Marclay’s first collaboration with an American contemporary music ensemble and its presentation coincides with celebrations accompanying the opening of the National Constitution Center (July 4, 2003).
Marclay’s juxtaposition of the Liberty Bell and Marcel Duchamp’s The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (The Large Glass) explores questions of artistic freedom, political liberation and sexual politics. The artist brings together this unlikely couple through four integrated components: a live music/sound performance by Relâche Ensemble, a photo-essaystyle publication of images and text, a double-screen video composition and an installation of objects from the collection of Duchamp’s works in the Museum, as well as souvenir bells made of glass from Independence National Historical Park and the Atwater Kent Museum, among others.
The Liberty Bell and The Large Glass share the status of being recognizable symbols of democracy and modern art, respectively. Marclay underscores another aspect of their shared celebrity: both reside in Philadelphia and both have cracks. The Bell mysteriously cracked early in its history. The Large Glass, which was acquired by the Museum in 1952, had been shattered during transportation to its owner’s house in the 1920s. Duchamp later reassembled the work and decided to retain the accidental cracks in the glass. Marclay investigates this connection as an extension of his artistic interest in objects that were created to make sound but have been rendered dysfunctional (the Liberty Bell) and objects that suggest sound without ever producing it (The Large Glass).
On May 17 and 18 (at 1:30 p.m.) and 21 (at 7:30 p.m.) Relâche Ensemble, a premier Philadelphia instrumental chamber ensemble for contemporary music, performs Marclay’s new arrangement based on audio and text archives transformed with computers to follow the cadence and pitch of Marcel Duchamp’s recorded voice. Duchamp’s speech patterns serve as a "score" and cue sheet for Relâche to perform along with the video installation in the Museum gallery. Together with Marclay’s video installation and presentation of objects, the abstract sound of the instruments juxtaposed with Duchamp’s voice creates a complex interplay of visual, verbal and sonic puns suggesting surprising, coincidental connections between the Liberty Bell and The Large Glass.
Integral to the installation is a book edited by Susan Rosenberg, the Museum’s Assistant Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, which includes a conversation between Christian Marclay; Thaddeus Squire, Artistic & Executive Director of Relâche, Inc.; Ann Temkin, the Museum’s Muriel and Philip Berman Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art and Thomas Y. Levin, Chairman of the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures, Princeton University. Also entitled The Bell and the Glass, the publication will be on view in the gallery and will be available for purchase at the Museum Store, by calling (800) 329-4856 or by visiting the Museum’s Online Store at www.philamuseum.org.
Inaugurated in 1993, the Museum Studies program invites contemporary artists to create works that engage various aspects of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Previous Museum Studies projects have featured work by artists Sherrie Levine, Richard Long, Lawrence Weiner, Rirkrit Tiravanija, Gabriel Orozco and Richard Hamilton.
About Christian Marclay
Christian Marclay (born 1955) is a New York-based visual artist and composer whose innovative work explores the juxtaposition between sound recording, photography, video and film. Raised in Switzerland, he studied sculpture at the Massachusetts College of Art in Boston and at Cooper Union in New York. Marclay is a pioneer in experimenting, composing and performing with phonograph records and turntables. He has collaborated with such musicians as John Zorn, Elliott Sharp, Fred Frith, Zeena Parkins, Shelley Hirsh, Christian Wolff, Butch Morris, Otomo Yoshihide, Arto Lindsay and Sonic Youth, among many others. His recent oneperson exhibitions include: Graffiti Composition, Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin (2002), Audible Imagery, Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago (2001) and Christian Marclay: Video & Photography, Museet for Samtidskunst, Roskilde, Denmark (2000). Marclay is represented by the Paula Cooper Gallery in New York where he recently exhibited Video Quartet (2001).
Christian Marclay, The Bell and the Glass was organized by the Philadelphia Museum of Art and Relâche Inc. and made possible by the Philadelphia Exhibitions Initiative, a program funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts and administered by The University of the Arts, Philadelphia; and by The Rockefeller Foundation. Additional commission funding was provided by the Philadelphia Music Project, funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts and administered by Settlement Music School.
The Bell and the Glass was produced by Relâche Inc. under the Future Sounds commission series as Future Sounds V: Visible Audio, and by the Philadelphia Museum of Art as Museum Studies 7, part of an ongoing series of projects created by contemporary artists.
Relâche Ensemble seeks to define and build a specialized repertoire of art music influenced by both popular and high art culture. This music mixes many genres, sampling freely from jazz, folk, indie-rock and electronica, in order to create a common ground on which audiences can enjoy familiar sounds while being challenged by new forms of musical expression. In the last quarter century, Relâche has been responsible for commissioning roughly 150 world premieres, including commissions by Philip Glass and Michael Nyman. They have recorded five LPs and three CDs, the latest of which, Pick It Up, was nominated for a Grammy Award in 1998. For more information on Relâche Ensemble or their programming call (215) 574-8248 or visit www.relache.org