Christian Marclay filmed and recorded Guitar Drag in 1999 and released the video installation in 2000. Most critics focus on the work as a response to the racially-charged 1998 murder of African-American James Byrd, Jr., but Guitar Drag is more than a frightening commentary on racism and abuse. Three Anglo men tied Byrd to the back of their pick-up truck and dragged him through several miles of rural Texas. This incident is important for understanding the motivations behind Marclay’s work, but these same scholars and critics largely ignore how the work enters into a discourse on gender. Marclay’s approach will become apparent when a semiotic analysis of the guitar reveals a gendered commentary explored in his work during the decade prior to this performance. These earlier works explore the use of collage and fluidity of gender. This is also the case with Guitar Drag, but ultimately Guitar Drag responds to the auto-destructive performances of Gustav Metzger and Nam June Paik. All of these influences come together and result in Marclay’s commentary on both the brutality of racism and sexual violence.
Mathieu Evans, ’12
Majors: Mathematics and Statistics, Art and Art History
Sponsor: Christina Penn-Goetsch