While You Were Gawking at Snapchat Posts, One Artist Was Listening to Them


“The thinking process behind the engineers and an artist is quite similar,” Mr. Marclay said. “You have to get out of your comfort zone and try to push the limit and see what can be done with what’s available.”

This isn’t the first time Snap has delved into the art world. Last fall, it collaborated with Jeff Koons on an augmented reality project to show his work superimposed on landmarks around the world. Around the same time, Betsy Kenny Lack, Snapchat’s head of global brand strategy, expressed interest in what might be Mr. Marclay’s best-known work, “The Clock” (2011), which meticulously edited together thousands of film clips referencing clocks to signify the passage of time. She wanted to produce something similar for Snap and pitched it to Evan Spiegel, the chief executive, and then to Mr. Marclay.

“Usually, I don’t accept these kind of offers because I’m always afraid of some commercial venture,” Mr. Marclay said. It took some lobbying from Snap and Jay Jopling, Mr. Marclay’s dealer at White Cube, a contemporary art gallery in London. Mr. Marclay was swayed, drawn by what Snap engineers said was possible with its technology.

The exhibition comes as Snap’s brand is in need of a boost. A redesign of the Snapchat app late last year was met with scorn, in particular from the reality television personality Kylie Jenner, who said on Twitter in February: “Sooo does anyone else not open Snapchat anymore? Or is it just me … ugh this is so sad.” Her post was shared almost 75,000 times, and may have been partly responsible for a tumble in Snap’s stock price.

The company’s financial troubles started soon after it went public last year, and it has continued to lose money. In addition, late last month, the streaming news channel Cheddar reported on an email from a former Snap software engineer named Shannon Lubetich who, on her last day with the company in the fall, sent a mass email to her colleagues detailing a toxic work culture.

Snap declined to say how much it spent on “Sound Stories,” but engineers said it was a side project they worked on in addition to their day jobs. Mr. Spiegel, the chief executive, said in an interview that it furthered Snapchat’s brand as being about “empowering expression.”


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