Christian Marclay

Paula Cooper Gallery, New York

Closed February 19
by Mike Osborne

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      “Christian Marclay, The Clock,” Paula Cooper Gallery, New York, NY (1/21- 2/19/11)
      ©Christian Marclay. Courtesy Paula Cooper Gallery, New York

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      The Clock is a montage of clips from several thousand films, structured so that the resulting artwork always conveys the correct time, minute by minute, in the time zone in which it is being exhibited. [1] A metaphysical tour de force of untethered meaning and involuting interlocking contrapuntal rhythms, The Clock is more than a movie or even a work of art. It is so strange and other-ish that it becomes a stream-of-consciousness algorithm unto itself—something almost inhuman. [2] Watching The Clock, I found myself wondering if Mr. Marclay has a computer for a brain. [3]

      Your sense of time is ordinarily the first thing you surrender when watching a film. But, here, film keeps banging it back at you, perfumed by sound editing that may bleed music from one scene into the next. [4] You might think that being made constantly aware of each minute would make time pass exceedingly slowly. In fact, the opposite is true. The work proves hypnotic, and time races by. [5]

      And there are, of course, clocks galore. This includes clocks of the wall, mantel, grandfather and bedside-table variety; clocks on steeples, towers, dashboards and bombs; and clocks in train stations, shop windows and spaceships as well as the occasional hourglass and sundial. [6] It is hard to say why this panoply of timepieces and plot twists is so gripping, but it is. [7]

      Speaking of which: The Clock is really no different from any other Marclay stitch-job. If you loved Marclay and his editors in Video Quartet (2002), in which they edited together clips from over 700 films of people playing or singing music, you’ll love them in The Clock. If you loved Marclay’s rat-a-tat style in Crossfire (2007), in which movie clips of gunshots ring out as you stand in between a four-screen installation, then you’ll want to see The Clock again and again. The only real difference with The Clock is that it runs for 24 hours, a handy mix of gimmick and conceptual veneer. [8]

      But blah blah. This is enjoyable art. I tried to think of something more insightful to say, but couldn’t…. Someone will bring up Douglas Gordon’s 24 Hour Psycho, right? [9] Andy Warhol's Empire is an eight-hour, silent, static view of the famous Manhattan skyscraper; Douglas Gordon's 24 Hour Psycho is a slowed-down version of Alfred Hitchcock's 1960 Hollywood thriller. [10] Christian Marclay is to Andy Warhol or John Baldessari what Vanilla Ice was to Chuck D, Queen and David Bowie. Vanilla Ice added shiny parachute pants; Marclay adds Final Cut Pro. [11]

      There were plenty of moments of humor, some pristine and others contrived via juxtaposition. [12] It sounds horribly complicated and postmodern, but you quickly get the hang of it…. [13]

      At 6:50 a.m., my wife and I walk into the half-full Paula Cooper Gallery. I see couples canoodling on couches, a few people asleep, and scattered junk on the floor: beer cans, popcorn, candy wrappers, a few bourbon bottles. Someone nearby is snoring. It reminds me of Chelsea in the days when sex mattered more than the art business. [14] Nostalgia cascades. [15]

      Once when I was there, the gallery was closing for the day. Everyone knew it was going to close but stayed glued to their seats while 6:00 came, then 6:01…6:02...6:03. At 6:04 the gallery assistants came into the room and started moving about apologetically and gently turning up the lights, as if it was the end of yoga class and we were all still in savasana. [16]

      My feeling is that there has to be something more that makes people as passionate about The Clock as they apparently are. And this probably comes back to the fact that it is an artwork about time. More and more, people are over-stimulated, overfed on information, constantly jumping on to the next thing, and therefore trapped in a universe of racing thoughts and molecular instants where nothing seems to connect to anything else…. [17]

      I thought of Walt Whitman, who wrote of being “a phantom curiously floating.” [18] Every action I saw that Sunday morning—every dog walker, jogger, person hurrying to breakfast, coming out a subway, or going to church—seemed less individualistic and more entangled in a built-in, beyond-our-control, deeply cosmic structure. [19]

      That's my best guess about the phenomenon…. I did not actually get in to see The Clock…. I didn’t see it, so I can’t really say anything about the experience…. The way they work us around here, I was too busy to … experience The Clock myself. I had to rush back to the office, and on to other things. [20]

      The Clock runs on an eternal loop, with no beginning or end. [21]

      This review is a collage that draws on a variety of sources.

      1. "Slave to the Rhythm," The Economist
      2. "Jerry Saltz on the Best Movie You Can See in New York (for Two More Days)," New York magazine
      3. Roberta Smith, "As in Life, Timing is Everything in the Movies," New York Times
      4. Peter Schjeldahl, "Getting Clocked", The New Yorker (subscription required for online access)
      5. Charles Spencer, "One of my favourite artworks of all time," The Telegraph
      6. Roberta Smith, "As in Life, Timing is Everything in the Movies," New York Times
      7. Roberta Smith, "As in Life, Timing is Everything in the Movies," New York Times
      8. Tyler Green, "With 'The Clock,' Christian Marclay plays it again," Modern Art Notes, artinfo.com
      9. Molly Stevens, "The art-event bandwagon," Art on My Mind, artallthetime.blogspot.com
      10. "Slave to the Rhythm," The Economist
      11. Tyler Green, "With 'The Clock,' Christian Marclay plays it again," Modern Art Notes, artinfo.com
      12. David Cohen, "You Can't Beat the Clock," artcritical.com
      13. Alastair Sooke, "Frieze week exhibitions round-up, reviews," The Telegraph
      14. "Jerry Saltz on the Best Movie You Can See in New York (for Two More Days)," New York magazine
      15. Peter Schjeldahl, "Getting Clocked", The New Yorker (subscription required for online access)
      16. Carol Diehl, "Christian Marclay's 'The Clock'," Carol Diehl's Art Vent, artvent.blogspot.com
      17. Ben Davis, "Meditations on Christian Marclay's 'The Clock'," artinfo.com
      18. "Jerry Saltz on the Best Movie You Can See in New York (for Two More Days)," New York magazine
      19. "Jerry Saltz on the Best Movie You Can See in New York (for Two More Days)," New York magazine
      20. Ben Davis, "Meditations on Christian Marclay's 'The Clock'," artinfo.com
      21. "Slave to the Rhythm," The Economist

      Mike Osborne is an artist based in Austin, Texas. 

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