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Christian Marclay- The Clock

Artists have dealt with the subject of time in many different ways. On Kawara‘s “Today” series is comprised of a simple painting of the date in white on a solid background, which he completes in one day. Anya Gallaccio explores the passage of time by using organic materials in her pieces, which rot and change during an exhibition’s duration. Even our own Ripo confronts time with his “10 Days” series, which is a study of headlines from the BBC News for 10 Days in May of 2009.


But time has not been so interestingly illustrated, or in the same way, as with Christian Marclay’s unbelievable “The Clock” at Paula Cooper. The complicated piece is a 24 hour film, which splices clips from movies of every genre, from Orson Welles and Clark Cable to every James Bond, and even television like The Simpsons and The Office. Marclay began watching films and taking notes on clips that referenced time, taking about two years to compile them all. But “The Clock” is not just an homage to film, it is also just as it is called- a working clock. As the film runs, it keeps perfect time. Anytime a clock or watch is shown, it is the actual time in New York time (as it is being shown here). And in respect to time, the scenes Marclay has chosen coincide with activities that would be done at that time of day. Breakfasts are shown in the morning, quitting time after 5. Scenes seamlessly lead into the next. A door opens in one film, and someone walks through in the next. And the most disorienting part, is that it is a piece about time, in REAL time. When I think about it, I am equally confused and totally in understanding.


My friend Lydia and I arrived to Paula Cooper to a huge line outside. I’m one of those line-snobs- I really rarely wait in line for anything. For events and openings, if I don’t have a hook up to usher me in, then I’m totally not interested. But after reading Roberta Smith’s review, I had to see this. So, we waited in the cold, for about 25 minutes, then a few more inside. Finally, after an actually really pleasant conversation with the hired usher/guard about making breakfast for his wife for Valentines day, we finally got into the make shift movie theater. Couches were lined in rows, but we only got the floor. I think we sat there for maybe an hour, we would’ve longer but our stomachs were rumbling and my ankle was falling asleep because I am old. The film was completely disorienting. My brain couldn’t wrap around the fact that it was the actual time, I kept checking my phone for the time to “make sure.” The snippets of each movie caused a deep nostalgia, making me realize how much movies and the memory of movies affect us. Like the olfactory transport back to middle school when I smell “Aussie Sprunch Spray,” the clips and blips reminded me of eating epic sundaes (key ingredient being hot cocoa mix) while watching Gremlins, having the flu with the company of It Happened One Night, and that time I was hung over and watched High School Musical.


Then, when we left, I’m not sure if it was in our heads or not, but everything was so cinematic. As we walked by the old Empire Diner, the clouds parted above the bare trees to reveal a full moon. The streetlights came on in unison. I noticed how gorgeous the top of the London Terrace Apartments, which I’ve ignored since they’ve been covered with scaffolding for years and years. Maybe I’m easily impressionable, but aside from the sheer complexity of the actual 24 hour film, I walked into Paula Cooper feeling cold and cranky from waiting on a sludgy industrial street, and left feeling a little of that New York magic.



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