Christian Marclay b. 1955, San Rafael, California
51 1/2 x 97 3/4 inches (130.8 x 248.3 cm)
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York Purchased with funds contributed by the International Director's Council, 2009
2008 Christian Marclay
Marclay is known for works that explore the relationship between sight and sound, often mining album covers or other found objects such as clothes or signs that use musical notes as a visual motif, for his collages, videos, and other works. In 2008, he was invited by the Graphicstudio at the University of South Florida to produce a limited-edition multiple, and he chose to make several unique cyanotypes, also known as blueprints, which are photograms made by placing objects onto light-sensitive paper. Among this group is Memento (Nirvana) (2008), a large-scale print in which cassette tape cascades from the top of the composition in several long, elegant strands. The verticality of the falling tape is balanced by catenaries of tape that drape from one end of the work to the other. From the parenthetical in the work's title, viewers could perhaps infer that the tape being used is of the 1990s grunge band, Nirvana, whose lead singer, Kurt Cobain, famously committed suicide in 1994. The word "memento" evokes the idea of a souvenir or keepsake that serves of a reminder of a past event. With this term, Marclay simultaneously addresses the history of a band and singer that no longer exist, and acknowledges the disappearance of the format used to record their music. From a formal standpoint, the abstract nature of the composition recalls paintings by Abstract Expressionist artists such as Jackson Pollock. In this sense, too, Memento (Nirvana) seems to pay tribute to a body of work, or style, that is in the past.