The Clock revisited, and revisited

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The Clock was designed as an art installation in 2010 by video artist Christian Marclay. It is a looped 24-hour video of scenes from film and television that feature clocks or timepieces. The artwork itself functions as a clock: its presentation is synchronized with the real time, resulting in the time shown in a scene being the actual time in the everyday world. If you’re in the cinema at 11 am and the characters on the screen are looking at watches or clocks or asking what time it is, the answer is 11 am.

The Gerts, as you may recall, stumbled upon Marclay’s work in 2017 in Copenhagen. We popped in for a quick look and were so taken with the work we returned on four different occasions, at four different times of day.

Now it has come to Melbourne to the wonderful ACMI (Australian Centre for the Moving Image) where they are running daily sessions free of charge. We were delighted to read that the Thursday session runs for the full twenty-four hours, allowing us to visit at times we had not been able to see before.

We met one Thursday at 9 pm, and after a bracing bowl of pho, joined the small number of viewers lounging on the comfy sofas as the film played. And surprise, surprise, from about 10 pm on actors in the clips were yawning and asking ‘what time is it?’ and getting ready for bed: many scenes of bedrooms, from the glitzy to the humble, many scenes of actors watching television in or near their beds. The emphasis seemed to be less on romantic or lustful assignations and more on the dread inspired by door bells ringing and fists hammering on doors late at night. Around 1.30am we were beginning to nod off ourselves, so we decided to depart. The main film I remember, and for some reason there were several clips from it, was the 1940’s film noir, Laura, starring Dana Andrews investigating the murder of Gene Tierney. She certainly had beautiful hair.

In our relentless pursuit of completion, we next visited ACMI a few weeks later at 7 am. And again, we found something highly predictable. Alarm clocks going off, hands groping blindly to turn off ringers. ‘What did you expect?’ you ask. We stayed until 9.30am. Alarm clocks were still bursting into life, and befuddled actors were waking abruptly and asking, ‘What time is it?’ in a tone of alarm as we left.

All enjoyable, if ultimately a little predictable. We did notice as we tottered off to have a big cup of coffee that the light seemed very bright and people seemed to be gliding past us in a rather odd way. Were we in the film?

What time was it?

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9 thoughts on “The Clock revisited, and revisited

  1. I went to see a couple of daytime sections of this when it was on at the Tate Modern recently. Interestingly, Laura also featured in the bits I caught – clearly a film with several shots of clocks! I found it completely mesmerising, especially the editing and connections between different films e.g. cutting from one phone call to another, or one doorway to the next. They must have had such fun putting it together.

  2. Hah! Enjoyed this, both concept and the execution as you describe it. Though, unlike the installation (a kind of Groundhog Day with timepieces), every day will in fact be different rather than on a loop.

    1. If you would like to go here letterboxd.com you can find a complete list of all the films used in The Clock.The list doesn’t include television series but he lists some that he knows. The variety is immense.

      1. The one thing that surprised me, in our travels, was the importance of time. Right from Big Ben in London to the clock towers of China they were prominent everywhere. I guess this makes it relative?

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