In the latest issue:

Short Cuts: Wholesome Royal Gossip

Jonathan Parry

Real Men Go to Tehran

Adam Shatz

What Trump doesn’t know about Iran

Patrick Cockburn

Kaiser Karl V

Thomas Penn

The Hostile Environment

Catherine Hall

Social Mobilities

Adam Swift

Short Cuts: So much for England

Tariq Ali

What the jihadis left behind

Nelly Lahoud

Ray Strachey

Francesca Wade

C.J. Sansom

Malcolm Gaskill

At the British Museum: ‘Troy: Myth and Reality’

James Davidson

Poem: ‘The Lion Tree’

Jamie McKendrick

SurrogacyTM

Jenny Turner

Boys in Motion

Nicholas Penny

Jia Tolentino

Lauren Oyler

Diary: What really happened in Yancheng?

Long Ling

At White CubeNick Richardson
Close

Terms and Conditions

These terms and conditions of use refer to the London Review of Books and the London Review Bookshop website (www.lrb.co.uk — hereafter ‘LRB Website’). These terms and conditions apply to all users of the LRB Website ("you"), including individual subscribers to the print edition of the LRB who wish to take advantage of our free 'subscriber only' access to archived material ("individual users") and users who are authorised to access the LRB Website by subscribing institutions ("institutional users").

Each time you use the LRB Website you signify your acceptance of these terms and conditions. If you do not agree, or are not comfortable with any part of this document, your only remedy is not to use the LRB Website.


  1. By registering for access to the LRB Website and/or entering the LRB Website by whatever route of access, you agree to be bound by the terms and conditions currently prevailing.
  2. The London Review of Books ("LRB") reserves the right to change these terms and conditions at any time and you should check for any alterations regularly. Continued usage of the LRB Website subsequent to a change in the terms and conditions constitutes acceptance of the current terms and conditions.
  3. The terms and conditions of any subscription agreements which educational and other institutions have entered into with the LRB apply in addition to these terms and conditions.
  4. You undertake to indemnify the LRB fully for all losses damages and costs incurred as a result of your breaching these terms and conditions.
  5. The information you supply on registration to the LRB Website shall be accurate and complete. You will notify the LRB promptly of any changes of relevant details by emailing the registrar. You will not assist a non-registered person to gain access to the LRB Website by supplying them with your password. In the event that the LRB considers that you have breached the requirements governing registration, that you are in breach of these terms and conditions or that your or your institution's subscription to the LRB lapses, your registration to the LRB Website will be terminated.
  6. Each individual subscriber to the LRB (whether a person or organisation) is entitled to the registration of one person to use the 'subscriber only' content on the web site. This user is an 'individual user'.
  7. The London Review of Books operates a ‘no questions asked’ cancellation policy in accordance with UK legislation. Please contact us to cancel your subscription and receive a full refund for the cost of all unposted issues.
  8. Use of the 'subscriber only' content on the LRB Website is strictly for the personal use of each individual user who may read the content on the screen, download, store or print single copies for their own personal private non-commercial use only, and is not to be made available to or used by any other person for any purpose.
  9. Each institution which subscribes to the LRB is entitled to grant access to persons to register on and use the 'subscriber only' content on the web site under the terms and conditions of its subscription agreement with the LRB. These users are 'institutional users'.
  10. Each institutional user of the LRB may access and search the LRB database and view its entire contents, and may also reproduce insubstantial extracts from individual articles or other works in the database to which their institution's subscription provides access, including in academic assignments and theses, online and/or in print. All quotations must be credited to the author and the LRB. Institutional users are not permitted to reproduce any entire article or other work, or to make any commercial use of any LRB material (including sale, licensing or publication) without the LRB's prior written permission. Institutions may notify institutional users of any additional or different conditions of use which they have agreed with the LRB.
  11. Users may use any one computer to access the LRB web site 'subscriber only' content at any time, so long as that connection does not allow any other computer, networked or otherwise connected, to access 'subscriber only' content.
  12. The LRB Website and its contents are protected by copyright and other intellectual property rights. You acknowledge that all intellectual property rights including copyright in the LRB Website and its contents belong to or have been licensed to the LRB or are otherwise used by the LRB as permitted by applicable law.
  13. All intellectual property rights in articles, reviews and essays originally published in the print edition of the LRB and subsequently included on the LRB Website belong to or have been licensed to the LRB. This material is made available to you for use as set out in paragraph 8 (if you are an individual user) or paragraph 10 (if you are an institutional user) only. Save for such permitted use, you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, post, reproduce, translate or adapt such material in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the LRB. To obtain such permission and the terms and conditions applying, contact the Rights and Permissions department.
  14. All intellectual property rights in images on the LRB Website are owned by the LRB except where another copyright holder is specifically attributed or credited. Save for such material taken for permitted use set out above, you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, post, reproduce, translate or adapt LRB’s images in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the LRB. To obtain such permission and the terms and conditions applying, contact the Rights and Permissions department. Where another copyright holder is specifically attributed or credited you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, reproduce or translate such images in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the copyright holder. The LRB will not undertake to supply contact details of any attributed or credited copyright holder.
  15. The LRB Website is provided on an 'as is' basis and the LRB gives no warranty that the LRB Website will be accessible by any particular browser, operating system or device.
  16. The LRB makes no express or implied representation and gives no warranty of any kind in relation to any content available on the LRB Website including as to the accuracy or reliability of any information either in its articles, essays and reviews or in the letters printed in its letter page or material supplied by third parties. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability of any kind (including liability for any losses, damages or costs) arising from the publication of any materials on the LRB Website or incurred as a consequence of using or relying on such materials.
  17. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability of any kind (including liability for any losses, damages or costs) for any legal or other consequences (including infringement of third party rights) of any links made to the LRB Website.
  18. The LRB is not responsible for the content of any material you encounter after leaving the LRB Website site via a link in it or otherwise. The LRB gives no warranty as to the accuracy or reliability of any such material and to the fullest extent permitted by law excludes all liability that may arise in respect of or as a consequence of using or relying on such material.
  19. This site may be used only for lawful purposes and in a manner which does not infringe the rights of, or restrict the use and enjoyment of the site by, any third party. In the event of a chat room, message board, forum and/or news group being set up on the LRB Website, the LRB will not undertake to monitor any material supplied and will give no warranty as to its accuracy, reliability, originality or decency. By posting any material you agree that you are solely responsible for ensuring that it is accurate and not obscene, defamatory, plagiarised or in breach of copyright, confidentiality or any other right of any person, and you undertake to indemnify the LRB against all claims, losses, damages and costs incurred in consequence of your posting of such material. The LRB will reserve the right to remove any such material posted at any time and without notice or explanation. The LRB will reserve the right to disclose the provenance of such material, republish it in any form it deems fit or edit or censor it. The LRB will reserve the right to terminate the registration of any person it considers to abuse access to any chat room, message board, forum or news group provided by the LRB.
  20. Any e-mail services supplied via the LRB Website are subject to these terms and conditions.
  21. You will not knowingly transmit any virus, malware, trojan or other harmful matter to the LRB Website. The LRB gives no warranty that the LRB Website is free from contaminating matter, viruses or other malicious software and to the fullest extent permitted by law disclaims all liability of any kind including liability for any damages, losses or costs resulting from damage to your computer or other property arising from access to the LRB Website, use of it or downloading material from it.
  22. The LRB does not warrant that the use of the LRB Website will be uninterrupted, and disclaims all liability to the fullest extent permitted by law for any damages, losses or costs incurred as a result of access to the LRB Website being interrupted, modified or discontinued.
  23. The LRB Website contains advertisements and promotional links to websites and other resources operated by third parties. While we would never knowingly link to a site which we believed to be trading in bad faith, the LRB makes no express or implied representations or warranties of any kind in respect of any third party websites or resources or their contents, and we take no responsibility for the content, privacy practices, goods or services offered by these websites and resources. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability for any damages or losses arising from access to such websites and resources. Any transaction effected with such a third party contacted via the LRB Website are subject to the terms and conditions imposed by the third party involved and the LRB accepts no responsibility or liability resulting from such transactions.
  24. The LRB disclaims liability to the fullest extent permitted by law for any damages, losses or costs incurred for unauthorised access or alterations of transmissions or data by third parties as consequence of visit to the LRB Website.
  25. While 'subscriber only' content on the LRB Website is currently provided free to subscribers to the print edition of the LRB, the LRB reserves the right to impose a charge for access to some or all areas of the LRB Website without notice.
  26. These terms and conditions are governed by and will be interpreted in accordance with English law and any disputes relating to these terms and conditions will be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales.
  27. The various provisions of these terms and conditions are severable and if any provision is held to be invalid or unenforceable by any court of competent jurisdiction then such invalidity or unenforceability shall not affect the remaining provisions.
  28. If these terms and conditions are not accepted in full, use of the LRB Website must be terminated immediately.
Close
Vol. 37 No. 6 · 19 March 2015
At White Cube

Christian Marclay

Nick Richardson

Christian Marclay​ ’s new show (at White Cube Bermondsey until 12 April) is all about teaching you to hear with your eyes. Surround Sounds, its centrepiece, is a soundproofed room full of people watching sound in silence. The graphic sound effects from thousands of comic books have been cut out, animated and projected onto the walls. Blue rectangles with the word ‘tap’ on them jump up and down at floor level. A multicoloured ‘crack’ fractures to reveal more ‘cracks’ below, then fractures again. ‘Ssh’ streams across the walls, saturating them: silent noise instructing the viewer to be silent. Flocks of ‘vip’ fly from one side to the other before giving way to large blocks of ‘chang’ and ‘thunga’, then vertical streams of ‘choom’. It’s a cacophony, but the only sound you hear comes from the occasional visitor who can’t help putting what he’s seeing into words – it’s a nagging temptation – before catching himself, embarrassed, and shutting up.1

The noises you hear in your head as you watch Surround Sounds might sound something like the kind of art Marclay was producing in the early 1980s, soon after his graduation from the Massachusetts College of Art, when he was best known as a mangler of LPs. They might sound like a particularly battered copy of Record without a Cover (1985), a run of single-sided LPs with the message do not store in a protective package engraved on them. The records would get noisier as the grooves deteriorated over time and the original audio was covered over by a carapace of ‘cracks’, ‘sshs’ and ‘vips’.2 Marclay played the turntable as an instrument – as hiphop artists had been doing since the late 1970s – at gigs on the New York avant-garde scene, using distressed records like Record without a Cover to improvise Bruitist musical collages.3 At one point he claimed in an interview that he could ‘scratch’ better than any hiphop turntablist, and he tried to persuade hiphop artists to perform with him.

Marclay’s background as a DJ had some bearing on The Clock, the work he’s now best known for. The Clock meticulously edited thousands of movie clips of clocks – or of people looking at clocks, or talking about the time – into a film that can be shown over 24 hours with the times onscreen corresponding to the actual time. Zadie Smith called The Clock ‘neither bad nor good but sublime’, and it is, both for the staggering amount of work that went into gathering and trimming the footage, and for the way it subsumes the whole history of cinema into the telling of the über-story, the passing of time. But it’s also a massive remix. Marclay took fragments of other people’s work, as DJs do, and recombined them into something new, altering their meaning. ‘My reason for pulling out of DJing,’ Marclay said in an interview with David Toop at around the time The Clock went crazy, ‘is that I feel that records have lost their meaning in a strange way. They’re not the objects that we all used to interact with and that brought us all the music we enjoyed.’ The Clock was a way of DJing without records; and Surround Sounds is a way of playing distressed records without records, a way of remixing noise using images.

Detail from ‘Black Shlup’ (2014).

Detail from ‘Black Shlup’ (2014).

The paintings on show at White Cube remix noise with paint. The sound effects have been screen-printed onto canvases that have been pre-painted with abstract marks, using brushes, sponges, mops and a water pistol. ‘Pop’ doesn’t appear graphically, but it’s always in the background: the screen-printed onomatopoeia, some of it in Ben-Day dots, blows raspberries at works like Roy Lichtenstein’s Whaam! But the backgrounds invoke Pollock and the abstract expressionists. As Tom Morton puts it in the exhibition catalogue, ‘Bringing together the techniques of gestural painting and mechanical printing, one a product of an impossible-to-replicate moment, the other of a process designed always to give the same results, he fuses a knowing riff on Pollock with a knowing riff on Andy Warhol.’ In other words, Marclay is DJing with the history of art, and hiphop is part of that story too: the larger paintings also resemble vivid graffiti pieces, old-school hiphop’s visual mode of expression.

There’s a room of small paintings each containing a single sound: a red and yellow splattered ‘plop’ on bogey green; a ‘splish’ in pink and purple mesh on orange; a ‘gloop’ that looks like a squashed heart, blood red on azure with the ‘gloop’ running diagonally across it. There’s a room full of bigger paintings that contain several sonic events. One of them has a whizzing ball of orange at its centre that spins your eye out either to a ‘blub blub blub blub’ over blue bubbles or to a ‘sploosh’ over an exuberant burst of green – a forlorn sinking feeling or a climactic explosion, depending on how it catches you. Colours and fonts seem to take on sonic properties. The pink in a pink ‘plop’ on grey reappears in the ‘splish’, and you hear its frequencies reiterated. Nobbly fonts sound different from bald ones, which sound different from spidery ones. Some of the paintings, such as a white creamy ‘slup’ with sea-green highlights, or a custard yellow ‘bloop’ on a background of blueberry muffin, elicit tastes too. Some of the paintings don’t quite work, in that the background colour or font doesn’t seem to match the sound effect. But that only heightens the weirdness of the rest of it, because it reminds you that what you’re looking at are pictures, not sounds at all.

Pub Crawl – 11 looped videos projected simultaneously along the White Cube’s main corridor below waist height – has a very different register. Where Surround Sounds and the paintings are joyful, borderline garish, Pub Crawl is downbeat, its colours subdued. You follow Marclay’s shoes and the bottom of his trousers as he walks through East London at daybreak tapping and rolling the bottles and glasses left behind by revellers the night before. The videos are of different lengths so the ‘music’ formed by the tinkling is polymorphous and unpredictable. It wouldn’t sound out of place on Records (1997), a compilation of Marclay’s early sound works, and there are obvious connections to Record without a Cover: objects being used in ways they weren’t intended to be, wrecked music made from wreckage. But Pub Crawl also has a Lefebvrian subtext about the limits of our freedom to engage with the objects and spaces around us. Marclay is alone, but the bottles and glasses suggest vanished crowds, and as you walk past the projectors your legs are silhouetted against the walls, making crowds of shadows. Most of us are slaves to the clock, Marclay seems to be saying, shuttled from work, to inebrium, then obediently to bed; and we end up excluded from ways of experiencing the city that are full of creative potential. We don’t play bottles at dawn, and we don’t do graffiti. The message that our free time is controlled and compartmentalised is enforced in the show’s final room, in which empty wine and beer glasses have been arranged on a shelf at waist height – bar height – along the sides of the space. But of course you can’t play percussion on them, and a man in a dark suit is standing in the corner making sure you don’t. ‘Ssh’ streams across the walls in Surround Sounds; the unrestrained visitor swallows his ‘thunga’, and slinks out.

Send Letters To:

The Editor
London Review of Books,
28 Little Russell Street
London, WC1A 2HN

letters@lrb.co.uk

Please include name, address, and a telephone number.

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.