The New Zealand Listener this month published my appreciation of Christian Marclay's 24-hour movie clip mash-up, The Clock.
As you may have read elsewhere, this epic montage screening at Sydney's MCA functions as a gigantic time piece, its fragments gathered from a dizzying array of cinematic and televisual sources while always displaying somewhere along the line the current time of day.
If The Clock only looked at the time, and nothing else, it might have been of limited interest. What really gives it fascination are the wealth of differing cinematic contexts in which its chronological references are located, and the way they are interwoven to create endless juxtapositions of meaning and, overall, a complex set of patterning.
Many visitors are finding, as I did, that once you enter the screening room it's hard to tear yourself away - so quickly do you find yourself being sucked in by the work's hypnotic effect; its never-ending (literally , as it runs in a 24 hour loop with no start or end) sense of promise, and its sense of now-ness - its perptual heightening of our experience of the present tense.
I urge you firstly to read the whole piece here and secondly, to visit the MCA before June 3 (the museum's screening theatre opens throughout the night every Thursday/ Friday morning and in usual daytime hours on other days).
"Obviously, the theme of time and chronicity is central – most literally in the shots of clocks, digital timepieces, grandfather clocks, alarm clocks, fob watches, wrist-watches, public clocks (Big Ben is popular) and verbal references to the time of day, but also in sequences showing the internal workings of machinery, particularly clockwork.
"Adding to the unity of all this disparate material are overlapping images such as passing trains, cars, someone worrying about being late followed by a clip in which another person is waiting. Sound and music often form a bridge between sequences.
"Sources of pleasure include guessing the film, especially with stars in obscure or forgotten roles; spotting correspondences; playing the game of spot the time reference; and catching the wittiness of many of the juxtapositions.
"No specialist knowledge is required of the viewer; the clips go all the way from various James Bonds and TV series such as The Office (UK version) and Mission: Impossible to Ingmar Bergman’s Fanny and Alexandra. But the more you know about cinema, the more patterns emerge. I especially liked the rhyme between The Tin Drum (young boy Oskar’s scream shatters the glass in a grandfather clock) and a clip from another German classic that crops up at least an hour beforehand, Run Lola Run, where Franka Potenta’s piercing scream has a similar effect. Another time we see Orson Welles.
"A few minutes later, Vincent D’Onofrio, who played Welles in Tim Burton’s Ed Wood, appears in a different role. This is surely not accidental. According to what time people enter, everyone will have a different experience. I only watched for about two-and-a-half hours. More viewing pleasure awaits."