The Clock, 2010, by Swiss-American artist Christian Marclay, is a 24-hour video installation montaged from untold hours of cinematic footage. Marclay has a background as a sound artist; starting in the late 70s, his works often translate sound into visual forms. In The Clock however, the artist has assembled a single-channel video which functions as a traditional timepiece with every minute shown or announced – literally like clockwork.
Fiona Trigg, curator at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) where the film will show in a darkened underground space over summer says that the artwork succeeds because of its ability to make viewers aware of “several registers of time simultaneously.” Not only does it sync with local time showing linear, logical time: the film clips set up registers of narrative time. There are fast-paced action films with actors racing to meet deadlines, and sections where the pace decelerates, showing the silent watches of the night, or the contemplative moments in people’s lives.
On yet another level, says Trigg, the work provides the pleasure of “remembered cinematic time.” Reminiscence makes up the weft of this video’s fabric – you might see a film that you loved in your twenties, or watched compulsively in your teens, or you’ll come across an actor you like or dislike. The Clock “evokes all of these memories but it’s different to watching a film in its entirety – this work is not driven by narrative; the outcome is incidental,” says Trigg.
The Clock has enjoyed both critical and popular success, and has been collected by a handful of institutions. Marclay has insisted though that it only be shown at one venue in the world at any given time.