Useless art: "Quack" disappoints in person

DjTRIO featuring Christian Marclay
at the Jefferson Theater
February 17

 Sometime around 1920, Ukranian cubist painter Kasimir Malevich decided that the essence of visual art lay in what was implied. In one case, he painted a red square on a black background; in another, he hung a plain blue canvas as a finished piece of art.

A talented Hungarian pianist named Gyorgy Kurtag employed the same philosophy in his compositions. The culmination of that stage in his life was a piece entitled "4'33" " where he sat at his piano for four minutes and thirty-three seconds of silence.

Those are just two examples of what I will now dub "useless art." By that I mean art that exists merely for the idea's sake and not for any particular aesthetic or practical application. I ran into another example of useless art last week when I wasted an hour and $12 on Swiss-American visual and audio artist Christian Marclay's newest project, djTRIO.

DjTRIO experiment with noise and texture on six turntables using an array of effects and unconventional record playing techniques. Marclay has drawn a distinct line between the music he records to the music he performs. The music he records is arguably groundbreaking stuff (check his impressive catalogue and collaborations with the likes of John Zorn, The Kronos Quartet, and DJ Spooky).

However, his live show pretty much blows a fat wad. I sat in pure confusion and watched as Marclay played dirty, scratched-up vinyl on 30-year-old phonographs while the other two turntablists mixed in effects and textures to blend in with the wall of white noise emanating from the speakers. To add insult to injury, cameras projected what they were doing on stage onto the screen behind them– as if seeing what they were doing would enhance the garbage I was hearing.

What saddens me is that this guy makes a living doing this. He is accepted because of his degrees in academia– not because he has any talent. Respectable members of the UVA community actually came to support this quack. The whole charade reminded me of the children's story "The Emperor's New Clothes."

He may have everyone else fooled, but not me!

"Naked emperor" Christian Marclay and djTRIO