The Clock by Christian Marclay is an audiovisual work lasting 24 hours.
Spectacular and hypnotic, its cinematographic mechanism is regulated with a clockmaker’s precision, and turns into a time machine, marking a century of cinema minute by minute.
Here Christian Marclay orchestrates thousands of film excerpts taken from the entire history of the cinema to compose this mechanism, which tells the time in real time in all the venues that exhibit it. With a mix of comedies in black and white, B films, avant-garde films and thrillers, passing time is made visible through successive shots of clocks, alarm clocks, watches, actions and dialogues illustrating the implacable march of time.
A history of the cinema mingles with our personal history – our biological clock – to create a dizzying mise en abyme where we become the contemporaries of actors in the fictional works through the medium of real time.
The images relentlessly scan the tyrannical force of time through the fragments of desire, frustration, hope, joy and despair that succeed each other on the screen. Viewers thus have the impression of watching a fictional story in real time.
What starts with a furtive glance at clocks here becomes an exploration of time and the way we perceive it.
Sound plays a special role in all this. Christian Marclay uses it as a binder, a symphony of telephone rings, ticking clocks, footsteps, shouting, laughter, crying and music. The formal equivalence of time and music is made clear, and The Clock becomes a musical work, captivating us through sonorities that blend with our own heartbeats.
Christian Marclay has always used the cinema as a repertory of sample excerpts. His practice of borrowing, sampling and citation place him in a line of descent from Dada and Marcel Duchamp and reflects the emancipatory approach of Fluxus, as well as the strategies of Pop art and the inviting approach of «Do It Yourself» Punk. It also carries the stamp of experimental cinema, which has made borrowing and editing essential ingredients of independent films. In The Clock, Christian Marclay takes this aesthetic of the fragment to virtuosic heights.
This work was one of the events in the 54th Venice Biennial in 2011, when Christian Marclay was awarded the Golden Lion for the Best Artist. The Clock was first presented at the Centre Pompidou from 3 to 5 September 2011 and also from 17 May to 2 July 2014.