Last week I had the pleasure of experiencing Christian Marclay‘s “The Clock” at LACMA. The masterpiece, a 24-hour video counts the day away, combining thousands of film clips containing clocks, timepieces, or references to time. What might sound quite dull is one of the most mesmerizing art instillations I’ve ever encountered. The video, which ticks along at real time, makes the viewer wholly aware of the time. But, by constantly drawing attention to time, its passing becomes meditative, almost nullifying the significance of a second, minute, or hour.
The viewer is left to enjoy the mix of narratives, to get lost in a familiar film or try to garner what the actors speaking a foreign language are saying. Or the viewer can let the mind wander, considering the significance of certain times of day, of humanity’s relationship with time, or how long it must have taken Marclay to find and compile all the clips. It’s enough to simply to wonder how long to remain on the comfy sofas that dot the dark screening room.
Pressed for time, I only got to watch a half hour (3:53-4:23 PM) of “The Clock,” but I found payoff at the stroke of 4:00, when movie quotes reference the changing of the hour and the tension rises in the film. Here Marclay’s crucial use of sound becomes evident, as gonging clock towers or intense music blur between the clips. The somewhat continuous soundtrack is almost unnoticeable and reveals Marclay the composer who, in an interview, explained his interest in performance art and punk rock, giving an indication of his early use of film clips:
“I came to New York in ’78 on an exchange program at Cooper Union, and when I went back to Boston I started performing as a duo with guitarist Kurt Henry. I didn’t have an instrument so I sang and made these background tapes for the performances. We didn’t have a drummer so that’s why I started using skipping records and things like that, to produce these rhythm tracks that we’d perform along with. We also used film loops from cartoons and sex films as audio-visual rhythm tracks. It was as much performance art as it was music.”
Barclay’s piece does take something of the performative, herding viewers into a dark room, where they are left to consider what to do in an unlit room full of strangers besides let themselves get lost in the art at hand.
This Saturday, August 8, LACMA is presenting a full 24-hour screening of “The Clock.” Whether it’s before your morning coffee, after your evening cocktail, or for the hours in between, find the time to see this piece on Saturday or at least before it closes on September 7, 2015.
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