It's instantly apparent why Christian Marclay's art is so appealing. This boundary-hopping artist transforms the totems of the music business--instruments, album covers, speakers, colored vinyl LPs, magnetic tape--into virtuosic collages, daring cut-ups, satirical jabs (especially the baton-brandishing conductors of Dictators), and wry Duchampian one-liners. I adored Drumkit (1999), seemingly designed for a colossal daddy longlegs spider, as well as the tatterdemalion LP cover assemblages of Guitar Neck (1992) and The Road to Romance (1992). Don't miss the two pieces from the Body Mix series (1991, 1992), which suture glamour-girl legs onto Jim Morrison and Michael Jackson.

The centerpiece of the exhibit is Video Quartet (2002), a hulking DVD-driven film-clip montage of musical performances. Amid the dozens of fleeting fragments, you'll hear Elvis, Sinatra, Leopold Stokowski, Thelonious Monk, Maria Callas, the Sex Pistols, Charlotte Moorman, and dozens of other actors, celebrities, and musicians. Video Quartet is arresting eye candy, but suffers from poor spatialization--inefficient speaker placement mulches much of the sound--and lacks the tight, dramatic structure of Telephones (1995). By superbly stringing together telephone rings, busy signals, hang-ups, and ritualistic phone talk ("Hello!"), this monadic sub rosa homage to Hollywood's sound effects (AKA foley) artisans ranks with the best work of sound collagists John Oswald, John Wall, Paul Dolden, and ex-Seattleite Ron Fein.

Let's hope SAM's Christian Marclay retrospective continues a trend among museums to present and preserve the sonic arts. Emerging technologies--projected phase cancellation capable of silencing a specified area, and the "sonic spotlight," which beams sound to a pinpointed spot--will soon make any museum's potential presentation of sound-based art easier and, like the Marclay exhibit, fun. CHRISTOPHER DeLAURENTI

Catch the Christian Marclay exhibit through Sun April 25 (Seattle Art Museum, 100 University St, 654-3100), Tues-Sun 10 am-5 pm and Thurs 10 am-9 pm, $7 suggested donation.

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