June 18, 2012

Galleries around the world are queuing for an opportunity to show Christian Marclay’s The Clock. The (time-)piece is currently being screened at the National Gallery in Ottawa. I welcomed the chance to immerse myself into Marclay’s perpetual work on Saturday when the nation’s capital was going through a heat wave.

The idea behind The Clock is simple, yet profound. Every minute is represented by a clip from a historical or recent film. A collage of these movies, pieced together by the artist, tells actual time. I sat through the work from around 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm and recognized clock or watch faces from movies such as Blade Runner, Kramer vs. Kramer, Taxi Driver, The Soft Skin and many others. Several of the movie narratives alluded to the middle of the work or school day, leading up to the tail-end of our society’s 9-to-5 routine. Leading up to every hour, the pace became frenzied and hectic then drift to slower rhythms with actors experiencing tardiness and the guilt of being late.

44 seconds past or 16 seconds to…

Marclay’s work plays with escapist dimensions of narrative cinema and we forget about time and at the same time we are constantly reminded of it. Some interesting facts behind the work: 

  • sourcing and editing the film took over 3 years of ten hour days to complete
  • the artist hired several research assistants to scour movies with appropriate time references
  • The Clock climaxes at midnight with an array of horror and New Year’s Eve footage
  • The Clock slows in pace between 4:00 AM and 5:00 AM with cinematic dream sequences
  •  a specially designed computer programme keeps The Clock running to the microsecond
  • The Clock will be in Ottawa until August 6. You’ve still got time!