Christian Marclay at the Barbican

This is a tremendously enjoyable show. There’s lots of work to see, and it’s very varied. Album sleeves painted over, a tuba and trumpet joined at the mouthpiece, photos of things to do with sound, a ludicrously extended accordion with about 15′ of pleats snaking in an ‘S’ shape, tape unspooling silently from an old reel-to-reel into a huge pile on the floor, album covers collaged or just collated together. Loads of fun stuff about sound on every scale. There’s the famous video piece, Guitar Drag, which is what it says, an electric guitar plugged in and dragged behind a pick-up truck across roads and fields. Another terrific video is countless clips from movies of people using telephones.

But there were two things I really loved, one of them not by Marclay. We were just buying our tickets when a classful of kids trooped in, each carrying, like a waiter, a vinyl album that they had altered, by cutting, painting, collage or whatever. These were then all laid out on the floor along one wall (the teacher asking the punters not to step on them), while the kids swarmed off to be told about the connection, the reason they were doing this, Marclay’s own altered records. These were tremendously enjoyable pieces, and I felt very fortunate to have synchronised with this brief bonus show (they were gone within an hour).

But the highlight was Marclay’s Video Quartet. This comprises four adjoining screens, each maybe 8′ square, and for ten or fifteen minutes we get different musical film clips in each screen, apparently 700 in total, mostly of people playing or singing: classical, rock, jazz, much more. We hear whatever is on the four clips at any one time. This may sound intolerable, but it’s magnificently blended and edited so that it actually works as a single musical piece, albeit an unconventional one, and it’s really thrilling to watch.

(Also included in the admission (‘8, ‘6 concessions) is the Tina Barney show upstairs: fine if you like looking at large and classy portraitish photos of the aristocracy, but not for me at all.)