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Punching my Timecard

Written by Thomas Büsch on . Posted in Urban Chant

A weekend with Christian Marclay’s ‘The Clock’ in May at SALT Istanbul

The Clock (2010), an exceptional video work by artist Christian Marclay, will be on view May 9 – 25 for 24 hours a day at SALT Beyoğlu.

The Clock is a 24-hour montage in real time, constructed out of thousands of excerpts from cinematic history that express the passing of time. In other words, when a clock says 4:00pm in the film (Robert Redford hitting a home-run and shattering a scoreboard clock in The Natural), it is 4:00pm Eastern Standard Time in real life. The piece was celebrated by critics and audiences, who lined up in the cold to watch the film, many of them staying for several hours.

The 24 hour movie

Marclay, collagist and champion of the remix, has created a 24-hour installation piece that aggregates clips from thousands of films to create a cinematic clock accounting for every minute of the day, either visually or aurally referenced on-screen, and synchronized to run in real time.

At 12 p.m. there are the ringing bells of High Noon, and at midnight it’s Orson Welles atop Big Ben in The Stranger. Functioning as both homage to the history of cinema and a critique of lost time, the work has enthralled audiences around the world.

Having planned to watch the entirety of the installation in one stretch, I was determined to get there for the 8 a.m. opening—a prohibitively early hour for an art fan. Like so many of the characters shown in the morning scenes of Marclay’s work, I mashed down the snooze button when my alarm first went off at 7:30. When I finally woke I checked the atrium’s Twitter feed to check on the length of the line to get into the screening. I was certain it would have already circled the block…

Marclay: I never encourage people to watch the whole thing


I watched scenes from thousands of films: people chatting, sitting in rooms, waiting, but perhaps more often people running to make trains, catch planes, stop bombs—action movies are privileged in the mix as they so often rely on time to create suspense, and many are returned to repeatedly, broken up by minutes and sometimes hours. The thriller Déjà Vu, where Denzel Washington must go back in time to stop a bomb from exploding, recurs a number of times (he spends most of the movie running around carrying a kitchen clock); watching him stress about the seconds becomes something of a gag in the new context.

The more you watch, the more you appreciate some of the peculiar nuance: in a moment from Mickey Blue Eyes shown at 1:25 p.m., Hugh Grant announces to Jeanne Tripplehorn “We’re now 25 minutes late.” Presumably they had to be somewhere at 1:00 p.m. but we’re seeing them here, later, a time noted only for not being another time.


The remix

The real genius of the work is not found in those moments of wit, but rather in the overall effect The Clock has of tricking its viewers into imagining there’s some metanarrative at work, which of course there isn’t. This is achieved in no small part by the soundtrack. Constructed after the editing process in collaboration with Quentin Chiappetta, the soundtrack Marclay deploys creates an aural logic that stitches otherwise jarringly disparate clips together by extending, remixing, and wholly reinventing the sounds of the scenes. It is this element more than any other that is responsible for the trancelike effect the piece seems to have on audiences: one often doesn’t immediately notice the changeover between clips, which is a tremendous feat and a testament to the artist’s success as a remixer.

First published by Sasha Herman at CAPITAL 2012

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Sense of Time

Sense of Time is the first interactive module of the Cultural Internet Platform InEnArt.

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