Christian Marclay gives Snapchat renewed relevance with his LACMA exhibition.
For those who have barely touched Snapchat since Instagram took most of its audience in 2016, it’s still around. Swiss-American artist Christian Marclay has partnered with the social media platform for Sound Stories, an immersive audiovisual exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
Marclay collaborated with a team of engineers at Snap Inc., which created an algorithm that allowed the artist to experiment with millions of videos posted publicly on Snapchat. The artist created five immersive audiovisual installations. Two of the pieces respond to the storytelling features available on Snapchat and the sounds of the visitors as they move around the gallery space, adding a participatory element to the artwork. With The Organ, visitors are invited to play a keyboard, in the center of the gallery, that uses an algorithm to search for sounds on Snapchat that closely matches the same notes. As each note plays, an array of people and situations are projected onto a nearby screen. Viewers have a chance to interact with the technology in Talk to Me/Sing to Me by speaking or singing into smartphones suspended from the ceiling. The telephones then process the voices through an algorithm created for the artwork that uses speech-detection and signal-processing technology. After, the phones respond to participants by mimicking their sounds.
In All Together, Marclay arranged some 400 snaps into a composition, played across ten smartphones, that synchronizes the sounds and the footage from users. For Tinsel Loop, Snap Inc. engineers created an algorithm that searched for sounds that create the same notes as Marclay’s 2005 composition Tinsel. The result is a replica of Tinsel that uses notes created on Snapchat instead of real instruments. Marclay transformed tablets into instruments in Sound Tracks, using overhead speakers to amplify their unfamiliar noises. For the accompanying visuals, the artist used “Turtle Mode” in Snapchat to speed and slow down footage of mundane, everyday activities, adding depth and emotion to it.
“Christian has built a totally new way to explore the creativity of our community through sound—with unique and surprising results. We can’t wait for LACMA visitors to experience his tremendous work,” said Evan Spiegel, co-founder and Chief Executive Officer at Snap, Inc. in a statement.
“Sound is too often ignored and purely incidental on most uploaded videos, image dominates, so I wanted to shift the focus on the sound. Sampling from millions of Snapchats was like having the largest ever collection of LPs to work with,” added Marclay. “Like a DJ, I started remixing these sounds.”
The sampling and mixing of sounds in turntablism first caught Marclay’s ear during its dawn, and would become a major influence on the artist’s practice. Marclay’s most seminal work, The Clock, which he debuted in 2010, also used a sampling technique that is prevalent in Marclay’s practice. The artist pulled microcuts of clocks, positioned at each minute of the day over a course of 24 hours, from a number of films, including High Noon, V for Vendetta, and The Stranger. The captivating 24-hour film attracted long lines at Paula Cooper Gallery in New York and White Cube in London.
Will Marclay’s interactive patchwork of Snapchat clips have the same blockbuster appeal as The Clock?