How Hedi Slimane and Christian Marclay Created a Visual Sound For Celine
Tucked into Slimane’s explosive debut collection for Celine was a collaboration with artist Christian Marclay years in the making.
From left: Christian Marclay, Ring Ring Ring 2006, pigment print on Arches paper, paper size: 43 1/4 x 44 9/16 in. (109.9 x 113.2 cm), © the artist, courtesy White Cub; a detailed view of a sequined jacket, rife with language, for Celine’s spring/summer 2019 ready-to-wear collection, photographed by Hedi Slimane.
Christian Marclay’s partnership with Hedi Slimane began with a call out of the blue. The London-based artist does not have a significant history of commercial projects, but he is fond of fashion in the sense that it’s popular and influential, like pop music.
Though both Marclay and Slimane are the epitome of self-directed workers, this was a collaboration that grew naturally. Marclay’s work runs a range of mediums—sound, sculpture, collage, film—and it illustrates the synapses between these forms. Slimane, similarly, approaches his fashion work as a kind of meticulous practice: equal parts design, photography, and performance. Slimane’s passion for music has long influenced his designs, and audial experience has been at the center of Marclay’s art since the outset of his career. Together, the pair created visual sounds for the designer’s debut Celine collection—an arsenal of onomatopoeia and sound effects for people to wear.
“The sound became sculpture,” Marclay says. “That’s what clothing is. It is sculpture that we can wear and, in wearing it, we give dynamic life to these objects. Sculpture has been my first love.”
When we see POW! in a comic, we look at it and we feel it, but we often don’t read it. Onomatopoeias merge illustration and language and are graphically expressive of their sonic quality. Marclay is interested in how these characters, which are as much image as they are words, express sound. “KABOOM,” “BEEP,” and “KLAK” were recreated in sequins or embroidery in the clothing. Slimane made patches with embroidery machines that simplified the designs into abstracted relations of the source original. In this translation is a scale of visual information about the process of referencing, remaking, and shifting material types. Marclay notes that each language has different onomatopoeias for the same sounds. (In Japanese, for example, there is an onomatopoeia for the absence of noise, a drawing for the sound of silence.)
Last year, Marclay, who was the composer in residence at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival in the United Kingdom, inaugurated the performance of To Be Continued, a 48-page comic book he made from other found comic strips, which, in its entirety, created a graphic score for the singers and musicians. The work underlined his engagement with blending sound and visual art, and it was performed by a frequent collaborator, Lausanne’s ensemBle baBel. That transformative appeal is something Marclay seems moved and delighted by. When asked how he shape-shifts through mediums, he says, “I’m always interested in how an image can become something completely different. It can become an etching, a printed photograph. And then that gets translated into other medium like video or music. Here, an image becomes embroidery. I love that transformation.”
The artist, whose most famous piece, The Clock (2010), earned him the Venice Biennale’s Golden Lion, even goes as far to compare his work to the craft of dressmaking itself. “It sometimes feels like editing video is my needlepoint, one little thing after another,” says Marclay, who is currently working on new material, with solo exhibitions planned in London, Barcelona, and New York. “It takes many hours to create a video out of fragments. Everything I do comes from found objects or images. In a way, it’s a similar kind of process to sewing. I don’t think the labor should be visible. It’s the pleasure that it reveals that is important.”