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Josiah McElheny, Christian Marclay video exhibits aim to broaden appeal for Wexner Center audience

Courtesy of White Cube, London and Paula Cooper Gallery, New York

Although art is often about expressing one’s own creativity, some artists think it is just as important to appeal to those who are viewing it.
Two internationally recognized artists, Josiah McElheny and Christian Marclay, discussed this topic onstage at Mershon Auditorium Saturday night. The conversation served as the Wexner Center for the Arts’ annual Lambert Family Lecture, an event that aims to promote dialogue about artistic and cultural issues in a global context.
In the hour-long conversation, the artists spoke about what inspires their works and how those works resonate with their viewers.
“Sometimes I’ve been disappointed that people didn’t understand something that I thought was important, but oftentimes my disappointment lies in my own misunderstanding,” McElheny said. “And sometimes that’s actually the best thing that could ever happen because it’s led me to new things.”
Due to his work, McElheny was the 2006 recipient of the MacArthur Fellowship, which is “a five-year grant to individuals who show exceptional creativity in their work and the prospect for still more in the future,” according to the Fellowship’s website.
Bill Horrigan, curator-at-large for the Wexner Center, acted as moderator for the event. He also worked closely with both artists to bring their exhibits, Marclay’s “The Clock” and McElheny’s “Towards a Light Club,” to the Wexner Center this semester.
The two exhibitions opened to the public on Sunday. Horrigan said each “vastly ambitious” exhibit is unique, but Marclay and McElheny shared the use of video as an artistic medium.
“It really was not intentional, but one point they have in common is that they’re both well-known artists, but not as filmmakers,” Horrigan said. “But at the same time, they both occasionally do these things with moving images.”
Marclay is best known for his artistic work with sound, but “The Clock” is a 24-hour video installation made of movie clips from an array of cinematic eras, including more recent films with which he said many might be familiar. The clips are woven together to literally tell the time – the video is synced to local time and marks every minute that passes as the viewer is watching.
The viewing room contains nine love seats where visitors can watch the exhibit comfortably for any length of time. Through this approach, Marclay said he forces the viewer to decide how long to watch and when to walk away.
“With ‘The Clock,’ you make your own choices,” he said. “You’re really left to your own decisions, and I think that’s really important.”
Accoring to the Wexner Center’s website, the exhibit will periodically be open for 24 hours.
The film took Marclay three years to complete, and for the first half, he said he continued to have doubts about its success.
“I didn’t know if it was even possible,” Marclay told The Lantern. “It took me a year and a half of research and accumulating and starting to edit until I felt, ‘OK, this is possible.'”
McElheny’s exhibit also contains a video element – a 30-minute film called “The Light Club of Vizcaya: A Women’s Picture.” He said much of his inspiration came from a novella by German writer Paul Scheerbart, paired with his curiosity concerning history and global capitalism.
“Art should, in my opinion, provide the opportunity for alternative visions as opposed to simply being something that would confirm all the ideas we already accept about how society should be organized,” McElheny told The Lantern.
McElheny’s exhibit also includes abstract video art and glass sculptures, which he is primarily known for creating. Another part of the exhibit is a performance element acted out by five individuals, including two students from Ohio State’s Department of Dance. Two to three times a week, Horrigan said two performers will wear pieces made of mirrors and walk slowly through the galleries containing McElheny’s work.
“Because so many of the pieces in (McElheny’s) show already are mirrored or glass-faced, it introduces yet another level of reflection and ambiguity, plus mobility,” Horrigan said.
Owen David, a second-year Master of Fine Arts candidate in the Department of Dance, is one of the five individuals acting out the performances. He attended the artists’ conversation in Mershon Auditorium and said he enjoyed learning about their thoughts on approaching viewers.
“It was just interesting to hear another perspective about audience because dance is a performing art, it just has a very different approach,” David said.
While the video component is the most noticeable similarity to both exhibits, Marclay said there is something else the two artists have in common.
“I think both of us understand the importance of the viewer and how that dynamic between the art and the viewer is important,” Marclay said.
Both exhibits, along with the Wexner Center’s third exhibition, “More American Photographs,” are scheduled to be on display through April 7.

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