What is Christian Marclay's The Clock?

Authored by: Nicole Fletcher on November 10, 2013

Christian Marclay - The Clock, 2010 - Single channel video. Duration 24 hours. Purchased 2011 with the generous support of Jay Smith and Laura Rapp, and Carol and Morton Rapp, Toronto. Jointly owned by the NGC and the MFA, Boston.

By now you've probably seen the bus signs, newspaper ads, or at least the banner outside the WAG about The Clock proclaiming things like "... probably the best movie of our time" or "the masterpiece of our times." But what really is The Clock? Can it possibly live up to these marketing-ized exclamations?

What is The Clock?
I had to see it to understand it's appeal. It's nearly impossible to describe The Clock accurately. Essentially it is a series of film clips expertly edited together all referencing time and displaying/discussing the currently local time. However, that description misses the point of The Clock.

The work isn't so conceptual that non-art critics won't understand it. In fact, I believe that is one of the work's draws. It's fun to try to figure out which movies are being shown or seeing actors you know quite well in their early films. A big part of the artistry of The Clock to me is the editing. Sometimes the audio tracks bleed into the next scene tying them together and enticing you to find the story where there is none.  Or the way Marclay has spliced clips together going back to pick up a scene you just saw a minute ago.

Who is Christian Marclay?
Christian Marclay is a Swiss/American artist who lives and works in England. He has had a very interesting history. He used to work mainly with sound. He was one of the first people to scratch records and he began his career by collageing vinyl then playing the patched records. There are great videos on YouTube showing some of his early work. Really The Clock is Marclay continuing in his medium of collage but with video.

Christian Marclay Recycled Record 1980

Christian Marclay, Recycled Record, 1980. Collaged vinyl record. Collection the artist.

In the end, all I can say is just go see The Clock. You won't be sorry. After you see it, please leave your reviews on Twitter using #WAGTheClock or on our micro-site.  Do you have any questions or comments about Marclay or The Clock? Please leave them in the comments below!


Nicole Fletcher works in the Education and Communications departments at the Winnipeg Art Gallery and is in the Joint Masters Program at the University of Manitoba and the University of Winnipeg.

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