Fire, Christian Marclay 's photography

Christian Marclay Fire

Fire, 2020. Courtesy of the artist, Fraenkel Gallery and White Cube

Untitled (Burning I), 2020. Courtesy of the artist, Fraenkel Gallery and White Cube

Untitled (Burning II), 2020. Courtesy of the artist, Fraenkel Gallery and White Cube

Artist's statement

My work explores the physical and cultural intersection between sound and image, and reflects an ongoing interest in the sonic perception of still images. How an image is expressive of sound, and how sound can then be expressed visually.

I use fragments of popular culture as material with which to create new meaning and form, through a process of mixing and re-contextualisation that is rooted in a sampling aesthetic originating in sound works I developed throughout the 1980’s using vinyl records. This approach to found material subsequently evolved to include the use of video, photography and printmaking.

The work that has triggered my nomination for the Prix Pictet was exhibited at the Fraenkel Gallery in San Francisco (January 21 – March 25, 2021) and was comprised of photographs, collages, and a video animation. The works selected for the Prix Pictet exhibition, however, are more specifically about fire.

The photographic prints originate from small-scale collages. Cut and torn fragments from comic books, movie stills, and images found on the internet are arranged into expressive composites of screaming faces. Sometimes the fragments are taped or glued directly onto the screen. Other faces are made from aggressively altering the paper by crumpling, tearing, and burning. These small ephemeral collages are then recorded by the camera.

Fire, 2020, is a video animation made from paper cutouts from comic book illustrations of fire. More than 1,500 photographs shown in rapid succession suggest a flip book, creating the illusion of a flickering fire. This animated collage transforms the representations of all manner of war, catastrophe, explosion, and arson into abstracted yellows, oranges, and reds.

These works reflect on the fear and anxiety associated with the raging pandemic, the erosion of democracy, systemic racism, and the damage to our environment.

About the photographer


1955, San Rafael



Based in

The United Kingdom

Christian Marclay studied at the Ecole Supérieure d’Art Visuel in Geneva from 1975 to 1977, at the Massachusetts College of Art in Boston from 1977 to 1980, and as a visiting scholar at Cooper Union in New York in 1978. Marclay's work has been shown in museums and galleries internationally, most recently in the major one-person exhibition, Compositions, at Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (2019). From August 25 to October 14, 2019, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art staged the U.S. debut of Marclay’s project Sound Stories, a five-work installation that makes use of the sounds and video recordings of Snapchat. Other important shows have been organized at the Kunsthaus, Zurich (1997), the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (2001), the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (2002), Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2010), Aargauer Kunsthaus, Aarau (2015), Sapporo Art Museum, Sapporo (2017). Marclay received the Golden Lion award for best artist at the 54th Venice Biennale for his 24-hour virtuosic video piece, The Clock, which was first shown at White Cube in London in 2010. Since then, The Clock has been exhibited at a number of institutions worldwide including Paula Cooper Gallery (2011), the Museum of Modern Art, New York (2012), San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (2013), Guggenheim Bilbao (2014), Centre Pompidou-Metz (2014), SALT Beyoğlu, Istanbul (2014), Museum Berardo, Lisbon (2015), Contemporary Arts Center, presented by Prospect New Orleans (2016), and Tate Modern, London (2018).