Christian Marclay. Video still from The Clock. 2010. Single-channel video with sound, 24 hours. © Christian Marclay. Courtesy Paula Cooper Gallery, New York.


NEW YORK - Got a minute? How about 1,440 of them?

You don’t need to commit a full day to Christian Marclay’s 24-hour-long masterwork The Clock, but after you get a taste of this strange and wonderful film, you’ll find yourself considering the possibility of an all-nighter.

It’s been playing lately at the Museum of Modern Art in New York – Monday is the last day – and I spent a trancelike morning watching it the other day. (Of the six copies, five are in museums or promised to them, and the other resides in a private collection.)


Christian Marclay. Video still from The Clock. 2010. Single-channel video with sound, 24 hours. © Christian Marclay. Courtesy Paula Cooper Gallery, New York.

Stitched together out of movie clips from throughout film history that reference every single minute of the day – from James Bond movies to obscure European art house films to High Noon – it exerts a hallucinogenic power. Even though it actually functions as a clock, with the exact minute constantly displayed in scenes both funny and harrowing, somehow you lose track of time while in its thrall.

The editing is clever indeed, sometimes coming back to the same film over and over and building up a kind of tension, even though the resolution never comes, as the film moves on to another story. Generally the people on screen are in the same boat as the rest of us: they’re hurried along by some kind of deadline, with never enough time. (For a writer constantly on deadline, this hits home.)



Christian Marclay. Video still from The Clock. 2010. Single-channel video with sound, 24 hours. © Christian Marclay. Courtesy Paula Cooper Gallery, New York.

I’m convinced it’s a truly great work of art. The most basic criteria is that The Clock stays with you – just like with a fine wine, the longer the “finish,” the better it is. You can’t look up at a clock or check your watch without thinking about our universal obsession with time, and how the movies have portrayed it. Wherever it has played, including Paula Cooper Gallery in New York and White Cube in London, people seem to agree – they line up for a chance to step out of time, ironically, by steeping themselves in it.

The power this work exerts is a little scary to me somehow. But I also found myself checking listings to see when the late-late portions of the film would be shown, requiring MoMA to open 24 hours. I’ll bet the dead-of-night stretch is something to see.