There are 1440 minutes in a day. Christian Marclay has found a film clip for each in turn (and, often, more than one) so that his dazzling, 24-hour installation piece—the quintessential loop—really does function as a clock. You can set your watch by it.
It’s hard to fathom the depths of research a project like this must have entailed, and we can be confident in asserting that no super cut before or since has pulled from this many movies. Marclay, one infers, is an old school cinephile, so there’s as much black-and-white as colour, and if English is the dominant language there are also snatches of French, German, Mandarin, Japanese and silent film intertitles, too (there are a few cult TV shows here as well, even MacGyver).
Part of the work’s pleasure is simply trainspotting—identifying films, actors, and auteurs from your own mental back catalogue. Clock-watching may not offer much in the way of story, but it’s a surprisingly entrancing juggling trick. We keep waiting for Marclay to drop the ball, but he never does. And, like any good entertainer, he makes sure to divert us with asides and distractions, jokes, in-jokes, introducing themes and motifs and delaying the pay-offs and punch lines by minutes, sometimes, hours.
If The Clock is a comedy, it’s also, inevitably, a melancholy reflection on time passing. Famous actors appear youthful one minute, and reappear decades older, the next. Others, we may recognize, but can no longer put a name to. As Vonnegut liked to say: so it goes.
The Clock itself has been winding its way around the world’s premier art museums and galleries for nearly a decade now. It’s still a significant get for North Vancouver’s shiny new Polygon Gallery, which is exhibiting the piece in a makeshift cinema with black curtain walls and rows of white sofas. Entrance is by donation, seats are first come, first served, and you can stay for as long as you want during regular gallery hours, with access to the complete 24-hour projection limited to four remaining Fridays over the summer.
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