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Christian Marclay’s The Clock

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In my last post, I mentioned that some things change, but that sometimes and in some ways they don’t change enough. This made me think about, among other things, the nature of time and progress. I believe that one reason why humans have such a desire for progress (as exhibited, for instance, in the exaggerated claims that some people make about cures and longevity and silver bullets of all kinds) is that we hope that our time spent passing through life will make a difference.

We all live, we all die, and we desire some meaning in the pattern, some difference from the ordinary in our own passage.

I can’t wait to see Christian Marclay’s film The Clock. Am I wishing away my time? I don’t know, but I do know that even just reading about this film has made me more conscious about saying that “I can’t wait” for something.

The Clock is a 24-hour pastiche of clips from movies (and a few TV shows), synchronized to an actual 24-hour time period and shown according to the clock. If the show time is 4:00 p.m., the movie starts at 4:00 p.m. It reminds its viewers of the time they are spending watching a film.

It is tied to so many of the themes I’m interested in:

* the nature of pastiche and re-use and when that’s a good thing instead of plagiarism
* the conventions of art and the subversion of those conventions
* the nature of time-wasting, and how often we waste our time with falsity (Alain de Botton comments here.)
* the fluctuation of emotions and how different moods rely on each other for existence
* the meaning of originality (This New Yorker article discusses Marclay’s method of using interns to find relevant film clips, but the responsibility he took for editing the 24-hour film out of those clips.)

So far, The Clock has only been shown in a few art galleries and museums. It has not come to Orlando. But one thing that fascinates me is the idea that the film could play continuously in a movie theater and that one might drop in every now and then to spend an hour or two or four or six, as the New York Times reports has happened at New York’s Paula Cooper Gallery. I know my own physiology would not allow me to watch it for 24 hours straight, and so I think about how I might experience it. One person online even suggested that it would be great to have it streaming into one’s mobile device as a perpetual clock.

Oops. I’m late. I meant to post precisely at 12:04 to coordinate with the excerpt above. But time is a formidable mistress to please. I even like thinking about what it means that my timing is so often imprecise. The Clock has me floating more aware in the medium of time. And I haven’t even seen it yet. I look forward.

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