One of the essential works from this year’s Venice Biennale is coming to New York City: Christian Marclay’s 48 War Movies (2019), which screens those films simultaneously, on loop in overlapping boxes, in a menacing daze of violence.
The piece will go on view September 12, in its North American premiere, at Marclay’s Chelsea gallery, Paula Cooper, which in early 2011 hosted the London-based artist’s breakout hit, the 24-hour video The Clock (2010). Throughout January and February of that year, people waited in long lines to visit that bewitching artwork, which strings together hundreds of short movie clips that display or mention time, charting the day through a fractured history of cinema. The piece, which was released as an edition of six plus two artist’s proofs, was acquired by an array of marquee museums, including the Museum of Fine Arts in in Boston, MoMA in New York, and the Centre Pompidou in Paris.
48 War Movies is, in some sense, the anti-Clock—instead of sly, poetic editing, there is just the deadpan screening of the films, with explosions, gunshots, and shouts bleeding one into another. It is overwhelming and difficult to watch, but the sheer rush of action exercises a primal pull. In the central show in the Biennale, “May You Live In Interesting Times,” the volume of the work is cranked up high so that it spills into adjoining rooms at the entrance of the Arsenale exhibition space, imbuing the whole affair with a sense of dread.
The Cooper presentation of 48 War Movies runs through October 19 at its 524 West 26th Street location, where Marclay will also show a series of woodblock prints of screaming characters copied from Japanese and Western comic books. (Works from that series are in La Biennale, too, where the film screens through November 24.)
With the Marclay production destined for the U.S., the question now is which other works from Venice will travel and research a wider audience. Here’s hoping the wild opera staged by Lina Lapelytė, Vaiva Grainytė, and Rugilė Barzdžiukaitė for Lithuania goes on a wide tour, as well as the treasure-filled Ghanaian pavilion. Ditto for Martin Puryear’s U.S. entry and the hypnotic videos of Brazil’s Bárbara Wagner and Benjamin de Burca. The list could go on. Lobby your local art dealers and museums curators. Let’s get these artworks on the move!