November 06, 2010
Watching The Clock
At the LRB blog, Jonathan Romney reviews Christian Marclay's videomontage The Clock.
Marclay has taken thousands of fragments of footage containing images of clocks, watches and other timepieces, and edited them into a 24-hour collage (the gallery is normally open only in the daytime, but the installation can be seen at weekends in its round-the-clock entirety). The time references on screen are synchronised with the real time of projection, so that if you walk into the gallery at 5.47 p.m., say, the clock or watch on screen will read 5.47. That is, the film itself functions very accurately as a clock.There's an accompanying "catalogue" book. I guess we can't expect a DVD.
Overall, we seem to be watching a huge, madly diffuse multi-stranded narrative with a cast of thousands - an epic drama about simultaneity, in which no narrative can ever reach completion. Micro-narratives emerge, not always linear. One is the story of a man bound and gagged, forever sweating nervously as he contemplates a time bomb. Another follows Jack Nicholson’s ageing process, from young rake (whose singing in Ken Russell’s Tommy apparently adds to the torment of the time bomb victim) to the haggard doyen watching the clock in About Schmidt (2002).
Marclay’s collage teaches us things we might have overlooked about times of the day. Between three and four in the afternoon is a period for slumber: alcoholic screenwriters and maverick cops wake around now, while others start dozing at their desks.