New Art Exchange
United Kingdom

Marclay’s 24-hour clock is comprised of film clips that are shot at a rate of 24 frames per second. “…it is physically impossible to apprehend an image in 1/24th of a second. In many ways the process of watching has become a process of forgetting1

As I enter New Art Exchange, one of the three galleries hosting British Art Show 7, I move from left to right through the main exhibition area, discarding two of the three video based works on show. Duncan Campell’s Bernadette seems convoluted, attempting to solidify a relationship between Irish political activist Bernadette Delvin and the media, the work quickly becomes tedious and seems politically obtuse. Edgar Schmitz’ projection in the middle section seems inaccessible without prior knowledge and understanding, my train of thought doesn’t extend much beyond a sense of green screen production employed in mainstream cinema. It is however apparent that these two works have prepared me for Christian Marclay’s The Clock and the abrasive relationship between fiction and reality.

Without seeing the work, I am already aware of it’s primary elements; ‘The Clock features thousands of found film fragments of clocks, watches, and characters reacting to a particular time of day. These are edited together to create a 24 hour-long, single-channel video that is synchronised with local time.’2

I enter the room through split hanging curtains, the space is small and lit only by the projection which fills the back wall, limited by the depth of the room, the picture is restricted, but big enough to imply a sense of cinema. Material blocks on the wall mimic the dated patterned speakers of 90’s screen rooms and several people are scattered around the room. A sense of ease within the audience jars with my normal conventions of a gallery space. Seating is arranged in rows, a strange contrast between material sofas and more traditional gallery benches reiterates a sense of environmental confusion. Am I at a gallery screening or a cinema screening? Is Marclay an artist or a film maker?

As I settle into the front row, it becomes obvious that the artwork I am conceiving and the artworks that I produce are inextricably linked. An established knowledge of authorship, appropriation and narrative allow me to promptly characterise three interlinking themes; a sense of time, truth and social commentary.

The work sticks to it’s premise, segments of film are collated together in a simple way, typical of Marclay’s earlier turntable and collage endeavours, creating a continuous reel of film structured only by it’s time based field. Whilst the original narrative of the appropriated clips is lost, The Clock manages to maintain a level of engagement by creating it’s own universal narrative; time.

The obliteration of Temporal Form3 allows an audience to experience a fictional or staged event in real time, creating an ambiguous relationship between the world they are perceiving and the world in which they inhabit. In terms of production, the fragmented collation of the clips reference French New Wave cinema, particularly it’s tendency to use jump cuts to create jittered imagery and manipulate the narrative.

The removal of the traditional illusion of pace creates a false impression of reality, creating a new world existing only within the gallery space, where we see iconic footage with fresh eyes, dismissing any issues of authorship that have long tainted the world of appropriated art. It is clear that the movement has had a consistent influence on Marclay, his earliest works coming to fruition during the last years of New Wave in the 1970’s.

A sense of continuity is achieved primarily through the soundtrack, the transitions are slicker audibly than they are visually. I later discover that this is because the track has been remastered by an independent sound engineer. The polished finish allows an audience to remain simultaneously engaged and fooled into experiencing periods of fractured film as continuous footage, Marclay himself states that ‘Sound is the glue that holds the pieces together4.

Political Activists, such as Chomskey, claim film to be a tool of propaganda, creating ‘necessary illusions’, similar to Marxist theory of false consciousness, keeping us distracted from reality. In a world where ‘reality is impossible to conceive5, Marclay has sourced fictional film to create a microcosm of life, blurring the boundaries even further between fantasy and reality.

The comfortable relationship between audience and piece means that the film can be experienced with more ease than past durational works, such as Douglas Gordon’s 24 Hour Psycho or Andy Warhol’s Empire. Any sense of endurance on the part of the artist and obligation on the part of the audience are mutually extinguished by the openly shared knowledge that Marclay did not undertake this plight alone, he had a team of assistants feeding him footage which he then collated together. This is complimented by the notion of humour employed throughout, removing any sense of burden for the task at hand – at midday a character carelessly states ‘We have survived the test of time‘ and at 1pm a suited man questions the necessity of an objective reality at all. The tactic could be considered as a social comment, or criticism – the use of repetition suggests a link to the world of advertising. The constant introduction of new ideas and scenery ensures optimum participation from an audience defined by it’s consumerist behaviour. However, the ease with which an audience is allowed to view the work suggests more a mutual joke, discussing the absurdity of our daily ingestion, and it would not be in keeping for Marclay to be mocking the audience he has worked for.

Throughout my experience, I am constantly aware that the work is also being shown at London’s White Cube Gallery, who commissioned the piece, and I cannot help but wonder what it would be like to experience the work in a more traditional and formal gallery space, or the possibility of viewing the work alone. However, as I sit and watch The Clock I am simultaneously filled with the sense that it doesn’t really matter. There is no doubt in my mind that Marclay is an artist and The Clock is an art work. Based on the simple notion of time, Marclay has created a piece that can be enjoyed by many audiences, on many levels, simultaneously. Whilst there is enough theory, referencing and technique employed to engage the most critical of viewers, there is concurrently the feeling that, by doing this, you are missing out on the most accessible and congenial point of the work. That as time passes realistically, and fiction is enjoyed persistently, a time slip is created where an audience is able to revel in the simple joy of forgetting.

1 The Encounter with the Real – John Stezaker in conversation with Krzysztof Fijalkowski and Lynda Morris

22010, British Art Show 7 [online], Available from: [Accessed: 23.10.2010]

3Period of time a narrative is set over + the duration of the film = Temporal Form.

42010, Slave to the rhythm; Christian Marclay on deadline [online], Available from: [Accessed: 26.10.2010]

5Olivia Plender, Live Lecture.

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