Christian Marclay’s Telephones, created in 1995, was a skilfully edited arrangement of black-and-white, as well as color film clips that highlighted different subjects utilizing an array of telephones, all designed before the smartphone era that we live in today. At the time of its release, technology was just reaching its peak, which is why Telephones became a breakthrough piece that is often celebrated today for its pioneering role in the history of video art.
Telephones utilized the story arc of the telephone call that featured a cast of popular TV and movie characters. These deconstructed film clips were sourced by Marclay from more than one hundred and thirty classic Hollywood films. For the series, he carefully combined a 7-minute-long montage of clips that featured the Hollywood cast using telephones. Telephone’s acoustic and graphic repetitions partly helped to make the stock scenes included more familiar and friendly.
Video: Christian Marclay – Telephones, 1995
What happens in the video?
Telephones starts with various scenes portraying the movie characters dialing the telephone. In the process of dialing, each of the telephone’s mechanics, rhythms, and other sound properties, which have all changed significantly with the growth of technology and the rise of the smartphone, is highlighted.
Marclay weaved the archetype of the human experience with the phone by using a varied arena of familiar images. When the phone rings, each cast member has a different reaction consisting of boredom, anxiety, anger, desire, and so on. Consequently, it makes it appear as though all the cast members are taking part in one long cohesive conversation.
The visual experience of the different cast members was made even more profound by the sound editing done by Marclay. The editing helped to create a wonderful collage that highlighted the mechanics of the telephones being utilized.
With Telephones, Christian Marclay managed to not only come up with a completely new narrative that offered audiences a perceptive observation on cinematic devices but also one that highlighted old-fashioned and outdated social behaviors and habits that are often experienced in the society.
In relation to today’s mobile-first and internet-prone contemporary world, the telephone has a different effect on society than it did all those years ago. The telephone, though a lot smaller, has grown to occupy every fabric of social existence. As technology continued to advance, the telephone will continue to take on a different role in society. It appears that the telephone no longer has the same impact – physical, social or emotional – that it once did.