More on ‘The Clock’

I know one student already mentioned the Christian Marclay piece, ‘The Clock’, that was exhibited a few months ago at Paula Cooper Gallery, but I just wanted to add some additional commentary on it since its applicability to Deleuze has increased as we’ve begun to read/speak about cinema.  I unfortunately did not get to see this piece, but was intrigued by the idea since I had first heard about it, and after attempting the long wait in line unsuccessfully, settled for whatever clips I could find on YouTube.  That being said, I hope I can still make some relevant connection to our class, despite lacking the direct experience.

Very briefly, ‘The Clock’ is a video montage of movie clips that include visual references to time in the frame.  Marclay has organized the time references in this 24-hour assemblage to correspond with our real-time.  The piece creates an interesting confrontation in time.  We are simultaneously bound to it by an unceasing reference to its physicality (through the depiction of clocks and watches, coupled by the fact that the time held by them refer to our real-time) yet we are moving freely through it, jumping from one decade to the next, and back again.  Time as experienced through age is also distorted, for we see the same actors at different ages, but not in a temporal chronology.

While talking about Bergson, Sam mentioned how the clock, while attempting to measure time, actually transforms it into a measurable quality.  Real time is transformed into abstract time.  Both Deleuze and Bergson would argue for a real conception of time as measured through duration.  This idea of abstract verses real time is especially interesting in regard to ‘The Clock’, because, although abstract time is constantly referred to, time as duration is to be decided by the viewer.  Although, given the length of the video, it is meant to be viewed partially rather than in whole, it seems that the meaning of the piece would change significantly depending on whether the viewer watched for a few minutes, a few hours, or for the entire duration.  I think this is a great example of how an art-work can remain open, and allow for viewers to enter into varying relations with it.

In ‘The Clock’, time itself is the main event, and plot, characters, and narrative are all subordinated to it.  Perhaps it is unfair to compare this art video to classical cinema, but I think it is relevant precisely because it is assembled from classical cinema.  In this way, Marclay transforms a striated space (clichéd, iconic Hollywood) into a smooth space.  To use some Deleuzian terminology, Marclay deterritorializes these controlled spaces, and re-inhabits them, giving them new life and new meaning.  He “reimparts smooth space on the basis of the striated” (480 A Thousand Plateaus).   It is of interest too, that Marclay’s montage achieves an effect similar to what Deleuze observes in a long-shot by Visconti.  In each opposing technique, I would argue we are similarly, “…plunged into time rather than crossing space” (xii Preface to Cinema 2).

BBC review of ‘The Clock’

Hilary Price

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