Imagine a 24 hour movie, devoted to an exploration of time, how it’s measured by clocks and watches, how and why people pay attention to its movement, how it flows seamlessly, moment by moment, minute by minute, how people think and talk about time, how it affects our movements and expectations and actions. That movie is The Clock by Christian Marclay, currently showing at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
“Christian Marclay’s The Clock is a cinematic tour de force that unfolds on the screen in real time through thousands of film excerpts that form a 24-hour montage. Appropriated from the last 100 years of cinema’s rich history, the film clips chronicle the hours and minutes of the 24-hour period, often by displaying a watch or clock. The Clock incorporates scenes of everything from car chases and board rooms to emergency wards, bank heists, trysts, and high-noon shootouts.”
David and I spent an hour and a half watching The Clock during a visit to MOMA on Thursday. We were entranced, in the showing from just after 11:00 a.m. until 12:30. The build up to noon through various clips of movies, many showing huge clocks like Big Ben, was as suspenseful as any movie I’ve watched. The pace of the movie snippets accelerated, the action of the clips was tense, the music strongly paced, and shot after shot of giant clock hands beat time, clicking closer and closer to their perfect vertical alignment, and then it was noon, midday, bells and chimes ringing out the hour. Then it was 12:01, 12:02, 12:03. . . . . .
We could have stayed in the showing for hours, but time was moving on and there were other things we wanted to do with our day in New York, include seeing the exhibition Inventing Abstraction, 1910 — 1925. Another excellent show, and particularly captivating for me was the confluence of poetry and painting during the rise of abstract painting in Europe. The connections between painters, musicians, dancers and writers throughout this period were displayed at the entrance to the exhibit, a web of relationships punctuated by red names, those whose connections touched at least 25 others involved in the rise of abstraction.
Several poets collaborated with visual artists to create cross-genre works of art, including “the first simultaneous book,” a narrative poem about a trip across Russia by Blaise Cendrars printed alongside a painting by Sonia Delaunay-Terk, the paint overrunning the text. A book of poetry by Guillaume Apollinaire written during his service in World War I included calligrams, poems in which the graphic layout of the poem was as important as the subject, creating an image that expressed the text. Apollinaire was a master of calligrams, such as his poem in the shape of the Eiffel Tower.
But time marched on, as it does, always and always and over and over, and we had a train to catch to be back on Long Island to take care of Emilio for the evening. I left with a journal full of ideas, and images of clocks and watches ticking on.