Synchronize Your Watches- A Twenty Four Hour Movie That Tells The Time

the clock christopher marclay the guardianIn what movie can you see Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Rita Hayworth, Al Pacino, Alan Alda, Angie Dickinson, Woody Allen, Tom Cruise, Jean Simmons, Jimmy Stewart, Kathleen Turner, Faye Dunaway……..well really just about every well-known star in the history of film and/or television?  It’s Christian Marclay’s  The Clock now showing at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.

Christian Marclay

Christian Marclay

Marclay has created 24 hours of film and television clips that flow seamlessly together, superbly edited both for sight and sound so you’d think you were watching one movie instead of ten thousand film clips. You see an actor pick up a ringing phone in a clip from one movie and move smoothly to a clip from another movie that’s from a different film era and set in a completely different time and place and a different actor is answering the phone. Very cool!

In each clip there is a clock or a watch or some reference to a time piece and each time piece you see is exactly set to the time you are watching it.  If you walk into the theatre where  The Clock is showing at 11:00 for the next minute all the clocks you see on the screen will say 11:00 and at 11:15 they will all be set to 11:15. The Clock shows an average of 20 clips every minute. Someone is trying to collect a list of them in Wiki Commons but they still had a long way to go the last time I looked. 

I was introduced to the work of Christian Marclay on my visit to the Phoenix Art Gallery where his similar project Telephones was showing- a movie clip montage of people talking on phones. Telephones however is only seven minutes long while The Clock goes on for 24 hours.

christopher marclay the clock the new yorkerA self-confessed workaholic Marclay says it took three years, six assistants and $100,000 to make The Clock. What got him started?  According to Paul Butler, the Curator for Contemporary Art at the Winnipeg Art Gallery, Marclay moved to London for love and couldn’t afford to rent studio space there so he had to find a project he could work on at home. The Clock was it!

Clips from many foreign films are used in The Clock although interestingly no Bollywood films. Paul Butler  says they don’t show clocks in movies made in India.

Recycled Records by Christopher Marclay

Recycled Records by Christopher Marclay

Marclay’s done all kinds of strange art pieces in the past, including strapping a turntable to his torso and playing it like a guitar and breaking records and then gluing pieces from four different LP’s together to make a new record that he plays on a turntable.

Interestingly enough, according to Butler, Christian Marclay doesn’t watch television or movies and doesn’t even own a TV. He only watches movies and television on airplanes and in hotel rooms.

Marclay is very fussy about the physical set up for The Clock. Art galleries have to create special theatres to his specifications, a  space that can only have a certain number of seats and they must be furnished with a specific make and model of couch bought from Ikea. Butler says the Winnipeg Art Gallery is looking for other ways they can use the space they’ve created for The Clock for future exhibits. 

I was curious whether Marclay had to pay copyright fees to use each of those 10,000 clips, but he didn’t. In an interview he said, “If you make something good and interesting and not ridiculing someone or being offensive, the creators of the original material will like it.”  

The Clock has been called the  Mona Lisa of the digital age and won Marclay the Golden Lion award for best artist at the 2011 Venice Biennale. The Biennale is sort of like the Academy Awards of the art world. I’ve been to see The Clock twice and it is quite addicting. Each time I spent about 45 minutes in the theatre, but was forced to leave due to other commitments. I’ll be going back. The Art Galley is sponsoring 24 hour showings when the gallery will be open all night on November 1, 22 and on New Year’s Eve.

Other posts……….

Phoenix Art Gallery

Red Bows For Michael’s Geese? Think Again!

Forty Part Motet

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