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Ceci n'est pas une horloge
February 8, 2012 9:49 PM   Subscribe

The Clock is a film that is also a clock. It runs for 24 consecutive hours, and is made of thousands of samples, some lasting only seconds, others minutes, from hundreds of films and videos. All of it edited into a seamless whole by video artist Christian Marclay. When it is shown, it is synchronized to the real time, so if it's 2:15 on a clock shown on-screen, it's 2:15 in real time. Harrison Ford is in it. So is John Cusack, Humphrey Bogart, Michelle Pfeiffer, Lon Chaney, Roger Moore(and all the other James Bonds), John Cleese, Peter Sellers, Orson Welles, the Beatles, Jody Foster, Gregory Peck, Nicole Kidman, Nick Cage and a few hundred others. You'll see The Simpsons and The Office. You'll see The Avengers. You'll see stuff you have no clue about. Here's what it feels like to watch all twenty four hours of it in one sitting.

The Clock won the Golden Lion at the 2011 Venice Biennale where Marclay reportedly thanked the jury for giving The Clock its fifteen minutes of fame.

The definitive list of The Clock's samples (it's unclear how many but probably close to two thousand?) have yet to be listed anywhere on the Net. It's probably only a matter of time. But it's more than just the ultimate trivia contest says the NY Times.

Clips of the masterwork are starting to appear on Youtube.

Here is 12:04 to 12:07 pm.

12:59 to 1:00 pm.

2:01 to 2:02 pm.

4:29 pm to 4:32 pm

Of course everyone wants to see what happens at midnight. Zadie Smith gives spoilers.

The Clock will be playing live at The National Gallery of Canada with four full 24-hour screenings of the work over the nights of February 10, 17, 18, and February 19
posted by storybored (58 comments total) 97 users marked this as a favorite

 
Please people, before commenting, watch the whole link all the way through.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:54 PM on February 8, 2012 [17 favorites]


The Clock is brilliant. It's played a few times here in Los Angeles. And I've loved Marclay since his pioneering LP-wrecking days.
posted by mykescipark at 9:56 PM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Addenda: Where The Clock will go next.
posted by storybored at 10:04 PM on February 8, 2012


Wouldn't this be something to mount in a player, running over and over indefinitely, as a clock?
posted by Yakuman at 10:10 PM on February 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


This is amazing.
posted by painquale at 10:10 PM on February 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Roger Moore(and all the other James Bonds)

I will fight you.
posted by jimmythefish at 10:12 PM on February 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


This is the most eponysterical post of all time. OF ALL TIME.
posted by jimmythefish at 10:14 PM on February 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


How was this possible for one person to put together and how long did it take him? I mean, there's thousands of samples in it, isolating those parts that show clocks would mean watching each source film all the eay through (presumably by fast farwarding?) Then there would be films without clocks that wouldn't appear... And finding a sample for 9:35 AM, for example would neccessitate looking through every film ever made if it just happens to never have been shown on screen before.
posted by panaceanot at 10:24 PM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I love Christian Marclay so much. I saw his installation Crossfire at White Cube back in 2007 and it might just be the most thrilling piece of visual art I've ever experienced. Basically, you stand in a room, surrounded by four large projections. Gradually, a gunfight ensues, formed by four film montages. It begins gradually: a drawer slowly opened to reveal a pistol, a jacket slung back behind a holster, a sniper's rifle carefully positioned on a rooftop. Then, an opening salvo, a building percussion of gunfire, building to a deafening crescendo of bullets and noise. It appears, from the middle of the room, that all these characters—gangsters and cowboys and soldiers, from different times and genres and realities—are in battle against each other. And you, the innocent bystander, are caught in the crossfire. There's a hypnotic rhythm to the beats, like the loudest Steve Reich you ever heard. Eventually the shots rattle to a stop. Snubnose revolvers slide back onto pockets, rifles are dismantled and stuffed into gym bags. There's silence and carnage. And then, after a pause, it begins again. If you ever get a chance to see it, you must.
posted by hot soup girl at 10:25 PM on February 8, 2012 [9 favorites]


Zadie Smith's column is the best kind of positive criticism. It's insightful and generates excitement. Great article.
posted by painquale at 10:25 PM on February 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


I also saw Marclay present a screening of Up And Out, a weird mashup pairing the visuals of Antonioni's 1966 Blowup with the audio of Brian De Palma's 1981 Blow Out. (Blowup is, of course, is about a photographer who may have accidentally caught a murder on film, and Blow Out about a sound effects technician who may have accidentally caught a murder on tape). Marclay introduced the screening by saying "I don't really know why I thought this was such a great idea when I made it in 1998, and it's pretty boring, so if you want to sleep through it or leave early, I can't say I blame you". Surprisingly, it wasn't boring at all, and it turns out Blowup is such a masterpiece it works perfectly even with the audio replaced with the goofball tones of John Travolta.
posted by hot soup girl at 10:42 PM on February 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


> How was this possible for one person to put together and how long did it take him?

The Clock took Marclay two years to assemble—he did the edit himself but employed six researchers to help source the material:
The Clock is very much a handmade artefact, in that the visual edit was entirely done by Marclay himself. But he also worked with six researchers. “What they did was rent movies, watch them and bring me all the time-specific references and anything that had any connection to time,” he says. “There was an element of chance – a lot of it was from films I hadn’t seen. We structured the search, so one was watching westerns for a while, and one woman was really into chick films. I’d forget where a clip came from – it became a piece of the puzzle, and it became very easy to take it out of context and create something else with it.” There were unexpected cultural discoveries too: an investigation of Bollywood films yielded next to nothing in the way of time references.

Marclay assembled his edit in hour-long chunks, the 24-hour cycle giving him enormous scope, but also confining him to a minute-by-minute grid. “A 10.01 clip has to be within that minute, at 10.01,” he says. “But within that minute I can place it anywhere – a minute is long in film, or it can be very fast. Then, in between, I have these joints – scenes that are not time-specific, but have to relate to the previous clip and the next one and articulate those fragments and create a flow. What I put in those joints is very much personal interests. Then there’s the more general idea of time – so someone waiting has a body language that expresses impatience or longing or boredom. Sometimes it can be more symbolic – memento mori images, like a flower wilting, a petal falling, the sun setting.”
Sight and Sound
posted by hot soup girl at 10:48 PM on February 8, 2012 [10 favorites]


Those new to Marclay may find his 1995 piece Telephones of interest. Some consider it the progenitor of the more recent popular artform, the YouTube Supercut.
posted by hot soup girl at 10:52 PM on February 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


Somewhat related: Beethoven's 9th stretched out to take 24 hours.
posted by oxford blue at 12:03 AM on February 9, 2012


How long before I can run this as an app on my wrist-mounted Nano?

I do not have a Nano, but I would get one just for this
posted by zippy at 12:49 AM on February 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


I have seen large pieces of this, it is pretty amazing.
posted by R. Mutt at 2:26 AM on February 9, 2012


I really like this idea and second the notion of making it available in some form as an actual clock. iPad app, website, whatevs.
posted by chavenet at 2:30 AM on February 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


p.s. I hear there's an XXX parody in the works: The Cock.
posted by chavenet at 2:33 AM on February 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


They showed it in Los Angeles. I've seen parts of it. I can't imagine how exhausting it must have been for the artist. Not only did he have to find clips with clocks, but specific clips of practically every minute of every hour.
posted by savvysearch at 3:32 AM on February 9, 2012


Those new to Marclay may find his 1995 piece Telephones yt of interest. Some consider it the progenitor of the more recent popular artform, the YouTube Supercut.

...and blatantly ripped off by apple.
posted by pmcp at 3:32 AM on February 9, 2012


Marclay's earlier homage to cinema, Telephone, can be found on YouTube
posted by 0bvious at 4:01 AM on February 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wow. Never heard of this guy or his work. I like.

However, I just watched "Telephones". Call me whatever, but this is incomplete without a shot at the Bat Phone.
posted by Goofyy at 4:21 AM on February 9, 2012


I am predicting, without having watched this, that the clip for 11:21 pm is something from The X-Files.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:24 AM on February 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I have to admit, I rolled my eyes at the idea of this, but found the clips oddly compelling. I think it's probably my inner film geek straining to identify the clips. Not sure I could sit through all 24 hours, though.

But, it's no Uniqlock.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:31 AM on February 9, 2012


I think the best way to see this would be to dedicate one TV + DVD player in your house to it, set it to repeat, and just use it as a real clock for a few weeks. Eventually you'll have seen most of it, you're greeted by the same scenes in the morning, you get familiar with it..
posted by Harry at 4:55 AM on February 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


I am predicting, without having watched this, that dope is smoked at 4:20 (AM and PM).
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:02 AM on February 9, 2012


It's a work of genius. Anyone who has ever watched a movie or gone to an art gallery will get sucked in. Wonderful.

I live in London and am lucky enough to have seen a few hours of it on several occasions. The runs up to midday and midnight are superb, but just about any section is compelling I'd really like to watch it during the witching hour, when it falls into a lot of dream sequences.

Compress the whole thing down into a single video file, and have it run constantly on an iPod nano watch. That's my dream
posted by 0bvious at 5:09 AM on February 9, 2012


This is one of my favorite art pieces in recent years, and I'm tremendously jealous that it wasn't one of the artists I edit for who had the idea first and devoted the time and resources to (hire me to help) make it. I woke up at 3am on the last weekend it played in NY so I could go see the early hours, the alarm clocks going off in the morning, the big arms-extended yawns, the commuters rushing off to work.

A side note: it's a cinematic experience; it wouldn't be right to put it on a wrist-watch. But if you had an extra room to spare, setting up a (darkened) clock room in your home would be lovely, especially if you had to simultaneously rid your dwelling of all other time-keeping devices. "What time is it, hon?" "Let me go check."
posted by nobody at 5:54 AM on February 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


What time is it, hon?"

Oh it's Exorcism'O'clock!
posted by Fizz at 6:00 AM on February 9, 2012


I did a segment about Marclay several years ago. It's interesting that, although he's primarily known as a sound artist, he'll be remembered best for his video work.
posted by fungible at 6:10 AM on February 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


How can a film that is so clearly illegal win awards? It is a perfect counter-example to draconian copyright laws, because it is obviously in violation of existing law and yet compellingly reveals itself as new art.
posted by bitslayer at 6:19 AM on February 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


How can a film that is so clearly illegal win awards? It is a perfect counter-example to draconian copyright laws, because it is obviously in violation of existing law and yet compellingly reveals itself as new art.

Just think of all the money the entertainment industry has lost because of this movie!!!!

Also, this reminds me of the time that I saw Inland Empire in the theater, and then I couldn't sleep that night, so I stayed up for about 30 hours total that day(s), watching the movie twice in that time.
posted by Sticherbeast at 6:34 AM on February 9, 2012


fungible, you worked on EGG? I loved that show!
posted by moonmilk at 6:37 AM on February 9, 2012


Just think, you could wake up in the morning , turn to your clock and thi " it must be late, we're half past Cary Grant."

Delightful, I could see getting sucked in for hours very easily.
posted by The Whelk at 6:41 AM on February 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


While the labor that went into this is impressive, it might as well have been assembled by a computer. The output would have been as dull but the method would have been interesting.
posted by michaelh at 6:44 AM on February 9, 2012


I can't believe there hadn't been a FPP about this already because I was slightly obbsessed with this when it was in New York. Must have heard about it elsewhere.

Clicking through to the "Where will it be next?" was so exciting as I prayed "Please say Chicago, please, please please..." It was like a snow day. Unfortunately, for now, a disappointing one.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 6:51 AM on February 9, 2012


GOING TO SEE THIS TONIGHT IN OTTAWA! WOOT!

Hope to do 2 hours tonight, and check out a few random hours at other times.
posted by Theta States at 7:38 AM on February 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


While the labor that went into this is impressive, it might as well have been assembled by a computer.

Nah, there's craft to it on display, especially in the sound editing, that I don't think would be possible via algorithm. The sound editing -- the amount of strong, deliberate overlaps, the way a music cue might last for quite a while -- is, I believe, a big reason why the piece has gotten so much praise from such a wide range of audiences/critics, in that it makes the piece eminently watchable to even those not prone to enjoying its sort of abstractions.

That said, my one critique (at least the one I remember right now) had to do with some of the 'cute' obvious interventions in the placement of clips, especially when those interventions/interjections do not include a timekeeping device anywhere in the frame. Three clips in a row of a cigarette being lit, then inhaled, then snuffed out, is amazing when all three show the same time of day -- it's like Hollywood was communicating something to us, and the piece has sussed out the conspiracy -- but if two of those three clips don't even show a watch on screen, then -- in context here -- it feels like just a bit of meaningless play, spoiling the conspiracy-dream of the rest of the piece.

All that said, I think an algorithmically generated version would be neat. The piece I was working on with an artist while Marclay was editing this, is, in fact, algorithmically generated (custom software written to deal with thousands of clips each given metadata tags and arranged on the fly), and we came up with some tricks to maintain a sort of flow to the proceedings.
posted by nobody at 7:41 AM on February 9, 2012


@moonmilk: I was the lead editor. Thanks! I always wondered if anyone was watching.
posted by fungible at 8:12 AM on February 9, 2012


I am so relieved I got my copy of Record Without A Cover when I did, considering how Marclay's finally getting his due these days.
It's one of the few records that has been exhibited in a gallery as a sculptural edition.
posted by Theta States at 8:21 AM on February 9, 2012


Nah, there's craft to it on display, especially in the sound editing, that I don't think would be possible via algorithm. The sound editing -- the amount of strong, deliberate overlaps, the way a music cue might last for quite a while -- is, I believe, a big reason why the piece has gotten so much praise from such a wide range of audiences/critics, in that it makes the piece eminently watchable to even those not prone to enjoying its sort of abstractions.

I was going to say exactly this. Anyone who thinks this is just a mechanical "let me find clocks in films showing all the times of the day and cut them together" has really misunderstood the project. In fact you can go for quite long stretches in the film without seeing a clock at all--and during those stretches you might be getting footage from four or five different films, and the audio may be unrelated to any of them. It's a truly astonishing piece of editing and sound design. You keep coming back to clocks, of course, but it's the seamlessness of the overall experience that keeps you riveted while you watch.
posted by yoink at 9:09 AM on February 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


The TV version with Kiefer Sutherland was pretty good, too.
posted by coolguymichael at 10:11 AM on February 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is pretty much the best thing ever, and I'm heartbroken that it came and went in Boston without me noticing.
posted by dfan at 10:22 AM on February 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I hope Smultronstället is not included.
posted by Anything at 11:35 AM on February 9, 2012


How can a film that is so clearly illegal win awards? It is a perfect counter-example to draconian copyright laws, because it is obviously in violation of existing law and yet compellingly reveals itself as new art.

Clearly illegal? How so? It seems like a good case for fair use in the US, at least. The purpose of the work is artistic rather than frankly commercial, it uses only tiny pieces of the copyrighted works as part of a much larger new work, and the pieces used have absolutely no negative effect on the market for the copyrighted works. It's also a textbook case of transformative use: the segments have become something completely different. Not only are they divorced from their original context, but the viewer's attention is focused on an ordinarily minor detail (i.e. the time on a clock somewhere in the scene).
posted by jedicus at 11:52 AM on February 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I was lucky enough to see some it just over a year ago when it was part of the British Art Show in Nottingham

I arrived at the venue around mid morning and watched about half an hour or so then I looked around the rest of the art at that venue (the show was huge and split over three different venues) had a usual coffee then went back for lead up to and the follow on to High Noon. there's a real temptation to watch a bit more, watch a bit more and fascinating to see a random mixture of familiar films and the unknown. Plus playing 'spot the clock' - it can be pretty tricky in some shots.

Listened to a interview with the artist at around the same time... apparently the hardest time to fine footage of with clocks in them were the early hours of the morning and (as others have said) he ended up with a lot of dream sequences

I really really want to watch it all at some point.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 12:38 PM on February 9, 2012


This is the most eponysterical post of all time. OF ALL TIME.
posted by jimmythefish at 12:14 AM on February 9


I might agree... had this been posted by allkindsoftime
posted by carmicha at 1:04 PM on February 9, 2012


One bit I've just remembered.... there was a great sequence that consisted of a number of quick cuts of watches all showing the same time (of course), but ending with one a few minutes off! What! Had they made a mistake?! ... there's a pause, then a hand comes into shot and turns the watch's hands to the correct time... brilliant.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:04 PM on February 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is pretty much the perfect movie to watch on LSD.

Not that I would know from experience, of course.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 3:07 PM on February 9, 2012


apparently the hardest time to fine footage of with clocks in them were the early hours of the morning

Did he really stick to the fictional time of the film? That is, did he never use a shot of a 2pm clock for a 2am sequence?
posted by yoink at 6:01 PM on February 9, 2012


I'm pretty sure there are at least a couple cheats like that. And I'm positive that some minutes last longer than others, though it always gets itself back into sync.
posted by nobody at 6:51 PM on February 9, 2012


I want to go to a double feature of this with ABED.
posted by Saxon Kane at 7:41 PM on February 9, 2012


Well, i dropped in for a quick look at the National Gallery. It was about 7:30 pm. and there's a brilliant funny stretch. First there's a segment with Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau trying to synchronize his watch and failing miserably and then there's this fast segue to someone being jumped by a manic Asian. Is it Cato? No it's not. The person being jumped is Roger Moore (as Bond) and get this, he ends up throwing his crazed antagonist through a massive glass clock.
posted by storybored at 8:06 PM on February 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I saw a small slice of this while visiting the MFA in Boston last fall. It was so compelling -- what would it show next? what movie was that from? -- that I found it really hard to get up and leave. (The comfortable chairs didn't hurt, either.)
posted by vespertine at 9:04 PM on February 9, 2012


It made my brain buzz in a really delightful way. My head was constantly focusing on so many different things:
- finding the clock in each scene
- noticing the audio editing that helps the juxtapositions
- absorbing the contextless tropes of the history of cinema
- getting caught up in snippets of narrative before having to abandon them emotionally

I walked away so happy that Marclay made this, and so happy that it was near midnight and our art gallery was still open.
posted by Theta States at 6:04 AM on February 13, 2012


I want to go to a double feature of this with ABED.

Make it a triple bill with 24 Hour Psycho and Andy Warhol's Empire as the short before the main features?
posted by pmcp at 7:16 AM on February 13, 2012


Perhaps this is the entertainment of doom that was obliquely described in Infinite Jest.
posted by mochimochi at 8:14 PM on February 14, 2012


There's a fascinating profile of Marclay with lots of "Clock" spoilers in this week's New Yorker.
posted by muckster at 10:51 AM on March 6, 2012


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