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Christian Marclay: The Clock

October 24, 2010

To the White Cube II on Friday to see the new piece by Christian Marclay, The Clock, currently showing in the basement gallery. The Clock is a single-screen work lasting 24 hours and comprising innumerable film clips of varying durations edited into a long sequence. Marclay’s criterion for selecting his clips: any time a clock is visible in a shot, or a character refers to a time, or checks his watch. In this way, the piece functions as a sort of enormous clock running in real time (nonetheless, leaving after one has sat in front of it for any length of time, the first reflexive question one asks is ‘What time is it?’). A strange tension is evoked: in film, reference to time is often to evoke a countdown or anticipate a turn in events, and a piece which stitches together these references makes for an uneasy viewing experience, leavened by moments of release. We watched from just before 4pm until just gone half past four, which phase concluded with extracts from a French film in which 4.30 means the end of the school day; absolutely not a film afficionado, I nonetheless recognised bits of Volver, D.O.A., Before Sunset and one of the James Bond films, and of course even in unfamiliar films faces one knows.

Cleverly, too, Marclay has managed to isolate strangely complementary mini-sequences within the larger context. How convenient, for instance, that someone in a film noir should ring a doorbell at 4.11, at the precise moment that a technicolour housewife decades later opens their front door to a stranger? Likewise, elements of the soundtracks from these snippets bleed and blend from scene to scene, giving certain sequences an odd coherence (and drawing attention to the often-overlooked role non-diegetic sound plays in aiding film continuity). It’s a clever, strange piece, not overwhelmingly emotionally affecting, but funny and bright, and in technical, labour-of-love terms quite extraordinary.

A major quibble, however, with the way White Cube is presenting this work: though it’s screening The Clock for four weeks, on only one occasion (the opening night, since you ask) has the gallery stayed open for a twenty-four hour period, or even extended its opening hours beyond the regular 10am-6pm, meaning that for even the most dedicated visitor, a full two thirds of the piece remain unseen. I can understand the gallery fearing drunk punters rolling in at all hours of the night (or day) or people sneaking in for a quick kip, but it seems a shame to hobble the piece (especially since it’s not really the kind of piece one can easily screen except in a gallery or cinema context). I would have liked, for instance, to see what turn the compilation takes in its late-night or post-midnight phases, when (one imagines) thrillers or horror films are relied upon more heavily.

Update (25/10/10): A kind commenter has pointed out that White Cube will be holding round-the-clock screenings on Thursdays to Saturdays (presumably 10am Thursday to 6pm Saturday inclusive) for the rest of its run. This is brilliant news — looking forward to seeing what late-night thrills Marclay has put together.

Christian Marclay’s The Clock is at White Cube (Mason’s Yard, London) until 13th November 2010.


From → Art, Film

One Comment
  1. John Doe permalink

    Due to popular demand, 24 hour screenings will be happening for the remainder of the exhibition Thursdays thru to Saturdays

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