The Clock by Christian Marclay @ The Power Plant

December 11, 2012 § Leave a comment

We have all experienced those moments where we stare at the clock and time seems to drag on and on and on… but have you ever found yourself enjoying it? Christian Marclay’s 24-hour ‘movie’ The Clock certainly had me mesmerized with each passing second.

Comprised of thousands of film and television clips, The Clock is a 24-hour video collage that examines how time, plot and duration are depicted in cinema. Marclay and his team meticulously weave together fragments of various stories to create a shattered narrative held together by the continuous flow of time. While each scene may originally be unrelated to the next or the one before, Marclay masterfully overlays and splices video and audio clips to create a loosely continuous narrative ushered along by the passing of time. The audience is bombarded with various storylines and we try to make sense of it all together until we finally realize that it is impossible because the ‘story’ isn’t about specific characters or events. While the pieces seem to build up something, we are never truly granted a climax or conclusion; scenes are never allowed to run long enough to develop into anything more than a passing moment. This is a representation of human life through a much larger scope than what we are accustomed to; we see life through various eyes driven by time rather than through the eyes of one protagonist, driven by plot.

The time in the video is synchronized with real time, making each viewer painfully aware of each minute as shots of clocks, watches, sundials and other time-telling devices grace the screen every minute or two (and even when there is no time displayed on the screen, you’ll find yourself checking your watch or cell phone to make sure it’s still on track). This connection with the real world only adds another layer to this remarkable work about life within time.


Still from 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 National Gallery of Canada and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston Courtesy the Artist, White Cube, London and Paula Cooper Gallery, New York.

It is a strange experience – movies usually provide an escape from the real world and we often lose track of time as we immerse ourselves in the stories we are told, yet The Clock does quite the opposite! While still captivated by each unfolding scene (some sneakily spliced together to create a more continuous flow in the grand scheme of the work), you are constantly aware of the real world as you check the time and take a look around to see if the people sitting around you have left yet (as viewers are free to come and go as they please within gallery hours or during special 24-hour viewing periods).

The ‘narrative’ of The Clock evokes themes and atmospheres associated with each particular time – the lazy mornings after sleeping in until 11am, the hustle and bustle of the 5pm rush hour, or even the build up during the last few minutes before the hour turns. It is a testament to how much time affects our daily lives, yet we rarely realize it. We begin to notice what time means to us; we become aware of the tension and release that follows the ebb and flow of time. The Clock really is a stunning masterpiece in its intricate detailing and magnificent editing (three years in the making!).

Christian Marclay’s The Clock is playing at The Power Plant until November 25. The gallery operates on normal business hours during the week but will be open for a special extended viewing period during The Clock’s closing weekend (from 10am on November 23 to 5pm on November 25) so make sure to check it out! Will you be able to watch the work in its entirety?


Christian Marclay, The Clock, 2010, installation view

For more info, please visit

—Olivia Tang



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