Guitar Drag

Christian Marclay

Exhibition: May 28 – Aug 30, 2015

Guitar Drag, 2000, video projection, running time 14 minutes

As an Artpace International Artist-in-Residence during the winter of 1999, Christian Marclay continued his investigations of the role sound and music play in culture. The artist looked to Artpace’s immediate neighbor as a location for exhibiting his new work. Alamo Music Center, a store selling musical instruments, was the site for viewing Marclay’s custom-made instruments; a drum set that had been altered with cymbals and drums positioned at heights corresponding to their tonal qualities and a customized 12-foot long accordion. These “instruments” were displayed in the store’s showroom window.

During his residency Marclay also began Guitar Drag, a 14-minute video depicting a pickup truck dragging an amplified, electric guitar tied by a rope across a Texas roadway to its aggressive destruction. The many-layered video work references the practice of smashing guitars during rock concerts and demonstrates Marclay’s interest in inventing new types of sound. The piece was also created in response to the 1998 murder of 49-year-old James Byrd, Jr. of Jasper, Texas by three white supremacists and the tragedy’s widespread repercussions. In an effort to combat hate violence, in 2009 President Barack Obama signed into law the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, named in their respective memories. Guitar Drag not only resonates with our aural and visual senses, but also simultaneously investigates multiple layers of history, race, geography, and timely social issues.

Since 2000, Guitar Drag has been shown 24 times in museums and galleries, both nationally and internationally, including the Hayward Gallery in London, Gallery Koyanagi in Tokyo, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, ZKM Center for Art and Media in Karlsruhe, Germany, and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. Sixteen years after its initial making, Artpace proudly presents the completed version of Marclay’s Guitar Drag for its Texas premiere.

Guitar Drag image © Christian Marclay. Courtesy Paula Cooper Gallery, New York. Originally commissioned and produced by Artpace San Antonio.

Support for Christian Marclay: Guitar Drag is generously provided by:

Janet Lennie Flohr, Christopher C. Hill, Candace & Michaels Humphreys, Jeanne Klein, Lee Evans Lee, Rick Liberto, Lora Reynolds, Cynthia Toles, and Anna & Todd Wulfe.

Press about Guitar Drag at Artpace

Out in SA
Texas Public Radio
The Rivard Report
San Antonio Current


Christian Marclay

London, UK / New York, New York, USA

London and New York-based Christian Marclay was born in 1955 in San Rafael, California and grew up in Geneva, Switzerland, where he studied art, eventually moving to the United States to complete his BFA at the Massachusetts College of Art.
The relationship between sound and image is central to Marclay’s work. He often incorporates music and musical instruments and has made sculptures from discarded CDs, melted vinyl records, sewn record covers together to create mixed media works, and created installations featuring musical instruments from museum collections. Performing and recording music is also an integral part of Marclay’s work. Using phonograph records as his “musical instruments,” he mixes altered records on multiple turntables in a display of precise manipulations. He has performed throughout Europe, Japan, Canada and the United States and has collaborated with many composers and musicians including Elliott Sharp, John Zorn, the Kronos Quartet, and Sonic Youth.
Marclay’s sculptures and installations have been exhibited in museums and galleries internationally, including solo exhibitions at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.; and The Clocktower/PS 1, New York.

See More