As with a lot of Christian Marclay’s work, the concept behind Doorways is straightforward. The piece consists of movie clips through which characters move by means of doorways. That’s it. From one door to a different, one clip to a different, one character to a different, spilling fragments of dialogue as they go, advert infinitum on a recurring loop of undisclosed length. On they sprint, because the movie does, going with obvious objective completely nowhere. The ultimate impression is of nice velocity with out route, motion that passes from one area to a different with out ever reaching progress. As a viewing expertise it’s stymieing, claustrophobic, and nearly suffocatingly repetitive. On the identical time, it’s nearly not possible to look away from.
It ought to go with out saying, after the worldwide success of The Clock, that Marclay could be very, superb at enhancing. Or relatively, he’s a genius at profiting from the thoughts’s want for continuity. We’re sense-making machines that may, if in any respect potential, construe the juxtaposed as contiguous, the fragmentary as the entire, a set of disconnected dots as a narrative. Marclay has performed on this intuition throughout his complete profession, from early sonic adventures in sampling and musique concrète, by means of visible works resembling Recycled Data (1980–86) and Physique Combine (1991–92), as much as the career-defining peaks of Video Quartet (2002) and The Clock (2010). Regardless of the medium of any given piece, he’s above all else a collagist.
That method is writ giant within the sculptures that act as a type of amuse bouche for Doorways. Right here, salvaged doorways are subjected to numerous processes of de- and reconstruction as if to see simply how far they are often taken from their authentic kinds and nonetheless retain an important doorness. One is hollowed to a spindly wisp of itself (Skeleton Door, 2023), one other turns into a kitschy inverted cross (Crosscut (Yellow Door), 2023), others reappear as brief stacks and tall, topped with handles, flanked by empty hinges. Just a little just like the outdated child’s joke, a door is all the time a door, even when it’s ajar.
Within the movie, the stacking is serial and recursive. Edits come thick and quick as Marclay’s solid of filched characters enter and exit, every clip just a few seconds lengthy at most. There are repetitions inside the total loop – Sidney Poitier exiting a classroom furiously from To Sir, with Love, Mia Farrow paranoically exploring her closet in Rosemary’s Child – however no sense of comforting landmarks or remaining returns. As an alternative, the thoughts scrabbles to increase the motion of 1 clip into the following, into the following, into the following. A door flung open in Seventies technicolour turns into the identical door that bangs in opposition to the wall a second later in Nineteen Fifties black and white; Poitier strides into his staffroom and is reworked into one other actor the moment he does so. The truth that any given linkage breaks down nearly as quickly as it’s fashioned is the purpose: Marclay offers simply sufficient continuity to maintain the involuntary psychological reflex at work with out ever permitting it to surrender. There are at the least two cases of invisible males, whose transferring lacunae come nearly as a aid within the fixed flurry of all of it.
Even supposing Marclay is eager to keep away from speaking of Doorways as a observe as much as The Clock, the comparability is instructive. They share the identical methods, and to some extent the identical lapidary brilliance of development; they usually share too the sense of performing as a lesson within the language of cinema. Whereas The Clock revealed the underlying grammar of cinematic time – the completely different personalities of its hours, the completely different significances of its move and intonation – Doorways is a lecture on the cinematic door. It’s partly a taxonomy of doorways themselves – cell doorways, home doorways, carry doorways, classroom doorways… locked doorways, lit doorways, darkish doorways, numbered and unnumbered doorways – and partly a thesis on their facets and behaviours. A door in earshot of operating water is a door for sneaking by means of; a door in a darkened room is a door for hiding behind; a door close to a desk is all the time closed however by no means locked. Doorways, normally, come not singly however in pairs and flocks, and their most popular habitat is the hall. You be taught, too, that good-looking males use doorways otherwise to ugly males, and otherwise once more to stunning ladies, who as typically as not have one thing to concern from the opposite facet of their doorways.
As a lecture, it’s fascinating, and – like The Clock – oddly gripping. Not like The Clock, although, it’s above all else discomforting. Whereas The Clock provided the sense, for all that occurs in its event-filled length, that all the pieces will return as soon as extra to its place to begin and start its journey once more, Doorways provides solely a ratcheting sense of locked-in reduplication. The one type of door that Marclay refuses the viewer is an exit. There are not any exterior pictures, no deep breaths of escape, solely the piling sense of a solid trapped in a repeatedly extending labyrinth. It’s to movie what Piranesi’s Carceri is to prisons: a creation through which the overwhelming urge to flee is matched solely by the urge to remain and discover.
‘Doorways’ is at White Dice, Mason’s Yard, London till 30 September.