“the clock” by christian marclay @ the venice biennale

"the clock" by christian marclay
"the clock" by christian marclay

There is still time to visit the 54th International Venice Biennale and see Christian Marclay‘s The Clock (2010), a masterfully edited film about time. For this work, Marclay (b. 1955 in California) was recently awarded the Golden Lion for Best Artist at La Biennale di Venezia 2011 during the 68th Venice International Film Festival, where the 24-hour screening can be seen again on September 9-10 at the Arsenale.

Marclay’s work is a clever montage of over 1000 vintage and contemporary film clips that make reference to time, either with an image, concept, or sound. Every time a specific reference is made, the time is synchronized to the exact present time of where the film is being viewed, in that particular time-zone. The idea is brilliant: by using fictional film characters, Marclay involves the viewer in actual real-time that suggests the differences between imaginary time and symbolic time, and our perceptions of each, based on a moment in time and our own relative and individual experience. Why does time seem to pass at different speeds depending on what we are doing? And we can’t seem to understand why time flies?

While watching the film, we are hyper-conscious of time passing,  and that we are perhaps wasting time by being engrossed in a film about time and getting caught-up in its imagery, which is not simply making the viewer painfully stare at an accurately ticking clock. Instead, we are reminded of our mortality and the importance of time and time management, so stressed in our contemporary society. As Benjamin Franklin said way back in the 1700’s, “Time is money…”, a man way ahead of his time!

You can see a short interview from the Biennale with Marclay, a BBC special on the showing at the White Cube Gallery in London where it debuted, and two 5-minute clips on YouTube: 3.14-3.20 and 4.07-4.12 . Since 2010, the film has been screened in London, NYC, LA, and now in Venice and Jerusalem. It took Marclay (originally a sound artist) 3 years to complete this film. Upon receiving his Golden Lion award, he thanked the jury “for giving The Clock its fifteen minutes”.

It should be obvious why I am intrigued by this film since I commonly use watch parts in my jewelry, attempting to stop time from passing (utilizing watch faces without hands and halted watch movements). We need to enjoy small moments and appreciate all the time in the world because in reality, we seem to have less and less of it every day. Ironically, I counted how many clocks I have in my small home: 7, plus the less obvious time keepers on a few digital devices – laptop, radios, and cell phones. It seems I am obsessed with time, or at least being on time and using my time wisely.

The Clock reminds me of another interesting film-action project about time, Standard Time (2007-8) by Mark Formanek, which I saw at the Strozzina in Florence last year, where “70 workers are building a wooden 4 x 12 m ‘digital’ time display in real time: a work that involves 1611 changes within 24 hour period.” I love the low-tech, manual labor answer to high-tech digital life.

"standard time" by mark formanek
"standard time" by mark formanek

I hope you have time to take a moment and see these films!

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