Christian Marclay’s The Clock

I stood in line the next to last day that Christian Marclay’s The Clock was screening at Lincoln Center, and I really lucked out. The line was only 2 and half hours. My friend from Georgia was suitably impressed by the lengths New Yorkers will go to for an experiential art film.

The film consists of thousands of spliced clips from cinema, put together so that each minute is filled with references to that minute, with clocks and watches, which is then played on that minute of the day, in a 24-hour cycle. The clips were largely English and French films, old black and white, last year’s blockbusters, and some b-cinema with a few Asian or Swedish film clips thrown in.

Remarkably, what ought to have been a disjointed, jarring experience by the very nature of it proceeded with some degree of flow and linearity, largely owing to the great sounds transitions, which were carefully managed. This makes sense; the person ahead of me in line shared some of the artist’s early sound work in the 80s. He spliced mechanically rather than digitally then.

I saw 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm, always hyperaware of the time. The clips made me wonder “Is this what people do a 6:30? Miss trains? And do they eat soup at 8 o’clock? Is this life?” I enjoyed recognizing the clips. Immediately one knows so much even in never-before-seen clips–who the protagonist is, roughly when it was filmed, the mood of the piece. It’s remarkable and would create a magnifiscent time capsule for someone to discover in 1,000 years, so much of our common consciousness is bound up in it.

I enjoyed, or rather disenjoyed, the continual interruption of the narrative, which would begin to drag you in only to end. It harasses the viewer with his status as a viewer, never letting him forget what and where he is. Or, of course, when it is.

And naturally everything you can think to say about the nature or passage of time is relevant to this piece which makes you hyperaware of the passage of time as you live it.

Also, see twitter for a variety of bad or better puns and jokes on the meta-ness of having to wait for hours to see this film.

2 thoughts on “Christian Marclay’s The Clock

  1. hey! i live in ny and i haven’t made it to the showing yet, i’m so glad you put it on your blog. i really enjoy this blog, i am a long time reader.

    nice notes on the passage of time regarding viewer awareness; i feel like marclay is constantly trying to make the audience hyper aware of their status as the audience.

  2. Hi cmk, thanks! I agree with what you say about Marclay and making the audience hyper-aware. I hope you got to see it…though I think it must have been gone. Luckily the copy they were showing belongs to MoMA, so we might have another chance to see it here in NYC.

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