Christian Marclay’s The Clock, winner of The Golden Lion Award at the 2011 Venice Biennale is a cinematic tour de force that unfolds on the screen in real time through thousands of film excerpts that form a 24-hour montage. Appropriated from the last 100 years of cinema’s rich history, the film clips chronicle the hours and minutes of the 24-hour period, often by displaying a watch or clock. The Clock incorporates scenes of everything from car chases and board rooms to emergency wards, bank heists, trysts, and high-noon shootouts.
The Clock was on at the Contemporary Arts space in Copenhagen while we were there, and we wandered in……., an hour later we tore ourselves away. We made two more visits later at different times in the day, a total of about 5 hours watching. It’s hard to say what’s so captivating about it. Is it the tantalising glimpses of films you dimly remember, have heard about, or have never seen? Is it the cunning way the clips are woven together so that a phone rings in a 1940’s black and white film and is answered in a garishly-coloured 1980’s Hollywood film? Is it the knock on the door in Japan announcing a visitor in England who might be a serial killer, a dear old lady or a child? Is it the scream of horror that cuts to a brash American kid being sickeningly cute? Is it the way it makes you so aware of the artificiality of film? Is it the changing fashions in style, story or character? How loud and bright the American films of the 80’s and 90’s seem, how caked in glistening makeup their characters, how unconvincing the acting in many of the old black-and-whites. And what on earth happened to that poor man tied up, gagged, and watching the clock tick?
There’s added pleasure for film buffs, who will revel in recognising the films, in seeing the connections Marclay’s making between them (there are lots of jokes here that went over Gert’s head) and in comparing filming techniques, as Thom Andersen does here: http://cinema-scope.com/features/random-notes-on-a-projection/
If The Clock comes to your neck of the woods, go and have a look. We bet you’ll be hooked.