Christian Marclay’s “Crossfire!” is a four-channel projection piece, which assaults the viewer with gunfire from a compilation of Hollywood films. This installation was in the Photographer’s Gallery as a part of the exhibit, “Shoot! Existential Photography”.
The video opens with a view of the trigger as it is pulled and then follows the course of the bullet. An at first seemingly chaotic barrage of gunfire plays but as it continues reveals its close attention to rhythm and form, true to Marclay’s background as a DJ and video artist. The gunfire seems to follow a beat, and the images repeat and change accordingly. At one point the clips transfer back and forth from one screen to the other in a sort of call and response as shown in the video below. (Christian Marclay)
The opening scene is incredibly calm when compared to the rest of the video. The one gun shot and bullet setting off this epic shootout instills the idea that this violence as portrayed through film and media perpetuates itself as well as manifests itself into our culture. The call and response of clips similarly mimics this idea, with characters shooting back and forth at themselves. This however, exaggerates the absurdity of our fascination with violence and its portrayal, because of its negative effect within our behavior and attitudes.
Marclay loves to use old Hollywood clips as the medium for his message as both his films Telephones and Clock employ the same technique. Marclay uses these clips because these films were the first mainstream entertainment, which reflected and made ripples through culture. His statements on universalities of media and their effects are amplified by using these old clips with themes that have continued to modern day media.
Marclay said, “These things I sample, or clip, are things that we share – music, films, sounds. It triggers a layer of participation from the audience as they recognize the material and remember it. Every person’s remembering will be different. That engagement is important, I think. It includes the viewer in a very different way than if it was pure invention.”(Davies, Lucy, 10/01/2012, Christian Marclay: art’s man of the moment)
Using old clips Marclay is able to achieve several points of distinction, which amplify his work. Firstly his works will trigger memories from when the clip or image was seen before. Then Marclay replaces this memory within a new context creating new thoughts and questions. In Crossfire! Marclay is making the viewer question the violence across so many popular movies.
Crossfire is similar to the work of Richard Prince’s Cowboy exhibit in which he removed the text and branding from Marlboro ads and presented them as works of art. This decontextualizing creates meaning from a singular aspect to serve a larger statement. In this example Prince is highlighting the incredibly mastered images used in these advertisements to serve the image Marlboro creates in the “Marlboro Man”. Marclay’s crossfire takes gunfire to represent the ubiquity of violence’s portrayal in film and our media. Both of these exhibits aims to make the viewer consider the portrayal of violence and commercialism manifestation and the impact on culture.
Richard Prince: Spiritual America, Cowboys. (n.d.). Retrieved April 09, 2016, from http://www.guggenheim.org/new-york/education/school-educator-programs/teacher-resources/arts-curriculum-online?view=item
The Photographers' Gallery. (n.d.). Christian Marclay. Retrieved April 09, 2016, from https://vimeo.com/52630656