What do Asian-American basketball player Jeremy Lin, actor Viola Davis, US President Barack Obama, singer Rihanna, businessman Warren Buffett, and artist Christian Marclay have in common? Not much, you might reply. More than you would imagine, says Time Magazine, which includes them all on its 2012 line-up of “the 100 most influential people in the world”, no less. Yet another list that serves only to boost the ego of an editor – however influential himself – who gets to hand out these pointless accolades. Or not, if one stops to consider the career of Christian Marclay, the California-born, Swiss-raised artist who shares his time between London and New York. He ranks second in the magazine’s roll call, just behind Jeremy Lin.
A herculean project
The reason for this meteoric rise: The Clock, a “thrilling and hypnotic” video installation lasting 24 hours. This “herculean” project splices together more than three thousand fragments of films and TV shows that make reference to time in a perfectly chronological collage that follows real time to the minute. On May 11th, Marclay was invited by Lausanne University of Art and Design (Ecal) in Switzerland to talk about his work. Students who maybe expected him to revel in his Time-endorsed celebrity status instead listened to the artist, speaking in perfect, carefully constructed French, give his views on music as an “audible translation of time.”
An exhibition staged by the Geneva Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art presented Marclay as exploring “links between sound and visual art, live performance, concerts, sculpture and installation. His work stands at a mutually influential crossover point between experimental music and art, and draws on expressive relations between sound and image.” Collage is a common thread which Marclay would later transpose to video. In his lecture at Ecal, he explained how “video and computer editing are now widely accessible, although this practice does not have music’s random, improvised dimension. My purpose is to juxtapose disparate elements and give them new signification.”
The Clock is the perfect illustration. Three years in the making, it premiered in 2010 at White Cube in London, then at the Paula Cooper Gallery in New York, early 2011. Further showings followed, including in Seoul, Moscow and Nottingham, culminating in a presentation at the 54th Venice Biennale last year, for which Christian Marclay was awarded the Golden Lion for best artist. “The images unfold in real time but chronological coherency has been shattered in all directions, writes film critic Jean-Luc Lacuve. “The Clock plays with the traditional narrative; it deconstructs the convention by which a film presents a convincing duration. A consideration of time seen on clocks and watches, or heard, The Clock conveys a love of cinema, of joy found in films which are conflated into an immense movement where time takes innumerable directions and breaks with any linear or narrative sequence. This work is both a tribute to film, at over a hundred years old, and an affirmation of the present time.”
The Clock is currently being shown in Sydney, for the reopening of the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, following which it will travel to New York and the David Rubenstein Atrium at Lincoln Center. At end August it arrives at the Kunsthaus in Zurich, which describes the work thus: “Over a 24-hour period, it shows us a watch, alarm clock or clock tower from a new film every minute, each displaying the actual time at the location. And just as in real life, the sometimes agonizingly slow, sometimes alarmingly hectic passage of time is embedded in thousands of human stories, so we never know what will happen next.” Lines are already forming to catch the 3:10 to Yuma…