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Christian Marclay sees music in old cassettes

Christian Marclay sees music in old cassettes

November 3, 2016 // by Paul Karabinis

This is the text of one of the audio guides Paul Karabinis wrote and recorded for Retro-spective: Analog Photography in a Digital World. Listen to the recording here.

Christian Marclay Large Cassette Grid No 3 b
© Christian Marclay, Mashup I, Large Cassette Grid No. 3, 2009. Cyanotype, 38 1/2 x 39 inches. Courtesy of the Artist and Graphicstudio, Tampa, FL. Image courtesy Paula Cooper Gallery, New York and Graphicstudio, University of South Florida, Tampa, Fl. Photo Credit: Will Lytch.

Christian Marclay's art frequently uses obsolete technologies to create work that ranges from collage to sculpture, installation and performance to photography and video. Marclay uses the photogram technique to create images of arranged cassettes and unfurled tape on sheets of hand-prepared cyanotype paper.

Invented by Sir John Hershel in 1842, cyanotypes have a distinctive Prussian blue color. To make a cyanotype, a light-sensitive iron-salt combination is coated onto paper with a brush. When dry, the paper is exposed to sunlight or a UV light source. When the light has printed the image to the artist's satisfaction, the paper is processed in water, and unexposed silver is washed away. Drying oxidizes the print to a deep blue.

In the nineteenth century, many used the process for making copies of notes and botanical specimens. Commercially prepared cyanotype paper available in the 1860s was used primarily by engineers and draftsmen as a method of copying drawings and specifications. The simplicity and low cost of the process made cyanotype popular with turn-of-the-century amateurs and professionals as a quick way to proof negatives without a darkroom. In the past generation, use of cyanotype has grown with artists eager to experiment with a printing process that is conducive to manipulation with other techniques such as multiple exposure and hand coloring.

Attend the Gallery Talk with Paul Karabinis at 7 p.m. Thursday, November 3.

Christian Marclay making grids
Christian Marclay creates a cassette grid cyanotype at USF Graphicstudio. Image by Will Lynch courtesy of the artist and USF Graphicstudio.

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