Christian Marclay's "The Clock" video montage

Pioneering sound/video collage artist Christian Marclay's "The Clock" (2010) is a 24-hour montage of appropriated film clips related to time. OK, I'll admit that I haven't seen the whole piece, but the chunks I've watched are fantastic. Above is a phonecam recording of some of it, recording at one of its installations. The Clock will be on view at the SFMOMA starting April 6, which is appropriate given the museum's imminent closure in June for (gasp) three years of construction. "SFMOMA Presents Christian Marclay’s 24-Hour Cinematic Masterpiece The Clock"


  1. Saw several chunks of it here in Toronto. Now kick myself I didn’t go to see it at 2 AM during one if its 24-hour showings.

  2. The Clock is probably the greatest piece of video art I’ve ever seen – the description here doesn’t explain the most important important thing about it, which might not be immediately apparent. All of the clocks you see in each of the clips are linked in real time to the time of day at which you’re viewing the piece. What you soon discover is that this dictates how the ongoing action is paced – the narrative device of a ‘deadline’ ensures that there are lots of shots in films of clocks leading up to the hour, which means as the hand nears 12, things become much more frenetic. As soon as it passes, things slow again. I didn’t see it at noon, but I’d put money on there being a massive glut of pocket watches in westerns just before it arrives. 

    The other amazing thing is how it plays with our understanding of narrative, and natural willingness to connect unconnected events that follow one another. None of the clips are related as such – only insofar as they feature a clock. I found myself wallowing in patterns and associations, innuendos, inferences and assumptions, inventing connections and stories. It really is the most extraordinary, dizzying thing.

    As an aside, a good friend of mine wrote the software for the piece – playing 24 hrs of projectable HD video requires quite a lot of work. Each shot of a clock is tagged with a time so that the software continually checks with the computer’s clock to make sure it’s running correctly…  

    Oh – did I mention I liked it?  ;-)

    1. It follows the actual time. The early morning stuff gets pretty freaky (dream sequences etc). The later morning (from about 5 to 8) can get a bit tiresome as it’s nearly all people waking up, throwing alarm clocks, etc (though there are other scenes, including parts of an obscure bank heist flick starring Johnny Cash).

  3. ‘The Clock’ is for me one of the most overrated artworks ever. Yes, it is a simple, elegant idea, well executed by Marclay’s team of researchers. But they way people imbue it with some kind of semi-spiritual meaning drives me mad. Take a step back, it’s fairly dull and a bit overblown.

  4. HOLY CRAP!!! (@ 2:30) I just watched “Picnic at Hanging Rock” last night. This is CRAZY weird. Now I’m walking on eggshells. Certainly this is a portent of……something. I’m freaked out right now.

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