Tate Modern| 14 September 2018 – 20 January 2019
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How many times have you checked your watch, or, as is more likely to be the case, your smartphone clock during a film screening? We tend to like to be aware of the time, particularly if we have somewhere to be. Movies, of course, have their own ‘film time’; the privilege of the filmmaker is to be able to make four hours pass in four seconds via editing and other techniques. Christian Marclay’s internationally celebrated 24-hour video installation The Clock, now installed at Tate Modern for the first time after touring around the world, is not an installation where you will have to check your watch at all, or feel the need to, as the film’s fascinating concept means it itself is always telling you what time it is, whilst making you think about WHAT time is.
Captivating audiences across the world since its debut in 2010, The Clock is a staggeringly epic montage of thousands of film and television clips from around the world that depict clocks or reference time in some way. It could be a glimpse of a wristwatch, a pan over a town hall clock face, or even - slyly- an hourglass filled with sand. Sometimes a clip will simply feature an onscreen character declare vocally the time, or we will see clips of various crowds behaving in a uniform fashion that suggests what time it is (a flow of human traffic exiting an office suggests it is probably the widespread clock-off time of 5.30pm). It encourages you to think about the universal, and non-universal, ways that people behave at certain times of day.
Following several years of rigorous and painstaking research and production, Marclay and his team edited these excerpts to create an immersive visual and sonic experience that, provided the film is started at exactly 8am, will synchronise the appearance of the time on screen to the actual atomic clock time in the real world. It is impossible to even imagine the scale of the task Marclay and his team set themselves to assemble and edit these clips to match ‘real time’. Ask yourself, how many clock faces can you remember in films, beyond the obvious ones (Back to the Future, for example)?
So you can enjoy The Clock simply as a feat of ambition and technical bravura. But this work operates as a compelling journey through cinematic history as well as a functioning timepiece. Even if you aren’t minded to start thinking deep thoughts about the ways movies depict and emphasise time, about how editing affects our perceptions (you can spot Marclay, for example creating little mini-narratives with his montages), you can play ‘spot the film title’ with yourself or any friends you are with. I myself spotted: Citizen Kane, To Catch a Thief, Notorious, Angel Heart, Mary Poppins, Broadcast News, and - of course - The Time Machine. But there are 100 years of well-known and obscure films, including thrillers, westerns and science fiction, to sift through. The Tate have 24 hour shows scheduled at certain dates to allow the devoted to try to tag them all.
About Christian Marclay:
Christian Marclay is recognised as one of the foremost contemporary artists working in sound and image. He received the prestigious Golden Lion Award at the Venice Biennale in 2011 when The Clock was shown. Tate jointly acquired this celebrated video work in 2012 together with the Centre Pompidou, Paris and The Israel Museum, Jerusalem. After touring internationally, this will be the first time Tate has shown The Clock since it joined the Tate collection. The work will be displayed in Tate Modern’s Blavatnik Building which since opening in 2016 has created flexible exhibition space to show large immersive video installations.