Though culled from thousands of snippets of popular films, the Christian Marclay video installation The Clock is by no means a typical moviegoing experience. It is intended to make the viewer aware of real time and its passage - and not just for a couple of hours but for a full, perfectly synced 24-hour cycle.
T??he typical moviegoer enjoys becoming immersed for a couple of hours in a make-believe world of light and shadow.
Losing track of time is an intended side effect of the experience. Which explains why a movie in which the narrative is presented in “real time” — as with the Alfred Hitchcock classic Rope — remains a novelty more than a century after the birth of the medium and why the urge to check a watch during a screening is considered a bad review.
Though culled from thousands of snippets of popular films, the Christian Marclay video installation The Clock is by no means a typical moviegoing experience. It is intended to make the viewer aware of real time and its passage — and not just for a couple of hours but for a full, perfectly synced 24-hour cycle.
A product of more than two years of research and editing, the work, which made its debut in London in 2010, won the coveted Golden Lion award at the 2011 Venice Biennale and has toured the world since. It will open today for a two-month run at the Wexner Center for the Arts.
As the American-born, Swiss-reared Marclay told Time Out New York: “With cinema, there’s usually a beginning and an end: You experience an event that starts at this time, is over at this time, and then everyone files out together. With this, you can come and go as you please; you can stay for five minutes or five hours. I’ve been asked many times, ‘So when does this thing start? When does it end?’ It starts when you begin watching. It ends when you leave the room.”
A master of making something new and original from something familiar and borrowed, Marclay has created collage work in a variety of mediums, from sculpture to sound installation. His previous video mash-ups include the 1995 short work Telephones, a precursor to The Clock made with post-production assistance from the Wexner Center’s film/video studio program. (The piece can viewed on YouTube.) But The Clock marks a substantial leap in ambition from anything that Marclay has done previously.
Through a combination of familiar film imagery, intricate editing and sound mixing, and an unusual structure that holds a tangible connection to the real world, Marclay hopes to make his audience consider how much of one’s life ticks away in the passive act of watching — no matter how much time one chooses to spend with his work.
If previous engagements in other cities are any indication, visitors to the center’s Gallery A will find it hard to leave. The Clock has engendered a response that would turn even the most successful blockbuster filmmaker green with envy.
“When it was at Lincoln Center a couple of months ago, there was a huge line, but people held out,” explained Wexner Center curator-at-large Bill Horrigan. “There is apparently some narcotic effect. The quality of the stitching together of clips is just incredibly clever. You don’t want to leave because every ‘x’ number of seconds, suddenly something else happens.”
That “something else” might be the pivotal standoff in the classic Western High Noon, or Big Ben exploding at midnight in V for Vendetta, or something as benign as a shot that pans across a bedside clock as Richard Gere in American Gigolo selects his Giorgio Armani suit for the day.
Reports of viewers sitting rapt for hours and long lines of others waiting to get in are common wherever The Clock appears. According to numerous sources, one visitor to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art presentation in 2011 claimed to have watched all 24 hours — without a bathroom break.
For its stint at the Wex, Gallery A has been transformed into a sound- and light-proof space, and a strict set of rules have been created for attendance.
The efforts align with the artist’s wish to have The Clock presented in a gallery setting, where people can come and go without disturbing other patrons, instead of a traditional screening room. His exacting instructions cover every detail, down to what model of Ikea couch is used for audience seating.
As at previous venues, admission is first-come, first-served. The number of people allowed into the exhibition at any one time will be limited, as will opportunities to see the work in its entirety.The Wexner Center will stay open all night on only three dates: Feb. 9, March 2 and April 6.
Staff members are working on a method to let potential visitors know how long a wait to expect, probably through a live video feed of the lobby.
Horrigan, for one, is curious to see whether Columbus audiences embrace The Clock with the same must-see fervor as art lovers in other cities, and challenge themselves to the endurance test of watching as much as possible.
“I don’t know if that level of productive hysteria will happen here,” he said. “But we’d love it if people were standing in line and there was interest enough to generate a kind of scene around it.”