“Time is the Clever Conceit”—The Clock Considered

Time is the clever conceit of The Clock—how we run our lives by it, how it consumes our very being of every minute of the day and how we seamlessly imprison ourselves with it.  It is also a tribute to the movies throughout history and how as an art form it can morph and emerge into a completely different animal.  It is a tour de force of video collage, sound editing and conceptual art.  Marclay deservedly won the Golden Lion for Best Artist Award at the 2011 Venice Biennale for The Clock. 

Ironically, Marclay is not a movie buff but the 24 hours of The Clock also turns into a  homage to the art of film as well.  Raised and educated in Switzerland Marclay has lived and worked in the States but currently resides in London.  He was one of the first to use a turntable into an instrument of noise and music precursing the hip hop era.  His sense of fragmentation, experimentation with all genres (film, photography, music and sound) is present throughout The Clock.  Only such a disciplined artist could accomplish this 24 hour feat—three years in the making and hiring numerous assistants who sourced the film clips was not enough; Marclay was involved in the key position of actually editing in both film and sound the video collage.  At different times of the day, thematic images tie together, humourous sly references embodied the film clips and after hours of viewing, cohesion and continuity  emerge in profound ways.  Interestingly enough, the video collage is too large to be available as a series of DVDs–it has been sold as a computer program to the various museums who have purchased it.

It is human nature to seek a narrative sense to any work of art—but the Clock only really begins to resonate when you see the entire piece at the same time as the clips present themselves.  Even if you are only fortunate enough to see a few hours,  I highly recommend you try to see the same few hours again—you view the same clips but not in the same manner.  Different scenes strike you differently and different ideas and themes emerge.  It is as if The Clock challenges you to see the world differently each time (no pun intended).  As a fan of movies you see actors age before you or see your fleeting youth and life as experienced by the brief clips.  Memories return and then you not only perceive the passing of time in a personal and generational way but also in terms of mortality.  Which actor is it—are they still alive… That movie is now 35 years old since you may have seen it or you can watch a classic oldie with no sense of yourself or your life in it but you witness the passing of it –whether it is in German, French, Italian, English-it is all  a universal experience.  Different eras, different lives depicted yet it all reflects the same human experience.  And time literally does fly by (pun totally intended) –three hours later but it just felt like you sat down.

The editing is seamless, the relentless passing of time ingenious in its simplicity.  A simple idea executed brilliantly. Its technical virtuosity is what impresses the most.   I only wish the Ikea couches were more comfortablle.  Marclay has been very specific and exacting on how the audience should be seated to enjoy The Clock but it’s presentation has proven challenging depending upon the “agendas” of different art institutions who want to get as many people in as possible.  There are only a few three person sofas present in the theatre and people come and go as they please, so logistically there are definite challenges .

Renowned Canadian visual artist Michael Snow will be in conversation Christian Marclay November 7 at the Power Plant at 8 p.m. (the event is sold out).    For a great article that details the work that went into The Clock,  Marclay’s body of work and his process, you need to read The New Yorker Article on The Clock by Daniel Zalewski to get the best out of the evening discussion which should prove to be informative and engaging. Hopefully there will be some discussion on the “art” of appropriation and how The Clock manages to transcends the issue.  The New Yorker article touches on this as well and would also be great to read before you head out to see The Clock as well.  For a more critical assessment and actual review of The Clock, I suggest reading another New Yorker article by Richard Brody.  Nothing is perfect after all it seems.

The show ends on November 25 at the Power Plant before it goes onto the MOMA in New York.  A “few” hours well spent…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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