Christian Marclay’s The Clock

Way after the actual visit, I am reviewing my experience of Christian Marclay‘s video art work “The Clock”.

I first came across Marclay improvising on turntables with John Zorn. He doesn’t only put vinyl under his styli – other surfaces suffice for experiment’s sake. His Video Quartet wowed me some years ago, four screens simultaneously playing montages of music and dance themed film clips, the result at times clamorous, funny, serene and dramatic – seemingly assembled with intent, but presumably with some space for serendipity and improvisation too.

From 14 minutes of Quartet, to 24 hours of The Clock. His new work is a curatorial wonder, a seguing of thousands of film clips that feature clocks or the time of day. The more astounding aspect of this massive round-the-clock medley, is that it is all synchronised (if launched correctly!) to the viewer’s local time – so that when you see Sean Connery (say) look at 2.30pm on his espionaging watch, you can be pretty sure that is the time for you at that moment.

The onslaught of clips made me feel quite film-illiterate, there were iconic scenes I felt I should know. And all around other viewers are murmuring triumphantly a recognised movie here and there. At least different genres and eras were evident much of the time. Incidents of no consequence suddenly gained a different aspect, perhaps a new unintended profundity, from the thematic context. For instance, Stan Laurel drops a clock, and when he picks it up, the hands are spinning round wildly. Very funny, but unsettling because we’re suddenly in a moment where time has gone awry.

I started at about 11.30 before lunch, thrilled to the pre-midday build up, and stayed the course past 1pm. Deciding to move on proved difficult, the constant shifting from scene to scene, story to story, was in some way mesmerising. The White Cube showed the full 24-hours on this last weekend, and I could have stayed for a verrry long time. The film clips were starting to revolve around dinner times, so I started feeling hungry and left.

It’s finished at London for now, but returning again in the Spring, and no doubt I’ll be back. Arnie says “I’ll be back”, but what time exactly was he back? (rhetorical question)

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