Finders Keepers

MoCA's film and video exhibit lifts found "artifacts" to the realm of visual art

Pierre Huyghe constructs a different kind of narrative with L'Ellipse (1998), which is projected onto a trio of contiguous screens in a small auditorium. Using fragments of films featuring German actor Bruno Ganz, he creates a 13-minute vignette in which the action moves smoothly from one screen to another, with a clip from one movie feeding into a clip from another without disrupting the continuity of the story. A clip of Ganz stepping into an elevator on one screen, for instance, gives way to a clip of Ganz exiting an elevator on another screen -- and the clips are from two different films from two different eras.

Editing prowess is also the star of Christian Marclay's Telephones (1995). For this seven-and-a-half-minute montage, in which the history of Hollywood is encapsulated in a series of phone calls, the artist imposes order on a seemingly random sequence of clips. First we see person after person picking up a phone and dialing but not speaking, except for an occasional "Hello." Then we get people racing to answer ringing phones and engaging in increasingly complex exchanges. After a few longer takes of people listening with varying degrees of attention, we finally see a series of hangups and "Goodbye" moments.

While Telephones is clever and a great deal of fun, Marclay's other contribution to Cut, the 14-minute work Video Quartet (2002), is flat-out amazing to behold. It occupies the exhibition's grandest space, a large, dark auditorium that comes closest to re-creating the look and feel of an actual movie theater. There's only one bench, which is large enough to accommodate three or four people, but the walls and floors are jet-black, the better to focus your attention on four side-by-side screens, each eight feet by ten feet. Marclay has sifted through dozens and dozens -- maybe even hundreds -- of Hollywood movies, culling countless clips having to do with music, then reassembling them into a sort of cinematic fugue. The sounds and images (and movie stars) come and go, sometimes overlapping, sometimes synchronizing.

Psycho, the really creepy version.
Psycho, the really creepy version.
Marclay's flat-out amazing Video Quartet.
Marclay's flat-out amazing Video Quartet.

Details

On display through January 30.
Museum of Contemporary Art, Joan Lehman Bldg., 770 NE 125th St., North Miami, 305-893-6211.

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As if a keen artistic eye weren't enough, Marclay seems to possess the gift of perfect pitch. The disparate sounds he has collected slowly achieve something approaching harmony (in a loose sense of the term), then dissolve into cacophony before edging back toward resolution.

Again and again while watching and listening to this astonishing piece, which I did more than once, I thought of the great John Cage, the maverick American composer (and philosopher) who also dabbled in the visual arts and worked with the aural equivalent of found objects. Cage, who died in 1992, would have loved not only Video Quartet but also "Cut: Film as Found Object." If there's a greater compliment, it eludes me.

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