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Jamie Goldenberg: Christian Marclay’s The Clock at Paula Cooper

February 16, 2011

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By **Jamie Goldenberg**

JGoldenberg.jpegLate Saturday night, around 2 a.m., across the street from a club whose sidewalks are well worn with heel marks and heavy beats, I stood in a short line at Paula Cooper Gallery, prying my eyelids open, waiting for time go by.

At precisely 2:06 I entered the back room of the gallery, a roughly 48 x 48 foot space, where I was among eighty people lucky enough to have the opportunity to view The Clock, Christian Marclay’s most recent video. The twenty-four hour video, projected onto a large movie screen, consists of thousands of clips of film in which a clock of some sort is shown. The clips are sewn together in chronological order and synchronized to real time. Scenes showing alarm clocks, glances at wristwatches, and spoken phrases like “It’s 2:30 in the morning!,” catalog every passing moment. Marclay’s brilliant use of sound engineering masks any rough transition that might otherwise occur in such a collage of sight and story. As a result, the individual stories and characters become part of one storyline.

The film reveals subtle narrative connotations of particular hours and minutes of the day. At 2 a.m., for example, Marclay’s video is dark, eerie and a little restless as characters wake up suddenly, frightened by a sound or intruder, or they sit in bed smoking and thinking while a partner sleeps, or walk through a dark house with only the light of a candle. However, I am told that at 7 a.m. the mood is bright and energetic, full of people waking up to alarm clocks.

With the narrative of time (as opposed to deliberate plot) tying each clip together, I was able to relate to characters I had known for only a brief moment as though we existed in the same shared space. Walter Benjamin began his argument on the authenticity of art in The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction by explaining that the authenticity of a work of art relies on the ability to share the same space and time as its original, allowing the viewer to experience its history. Film, he argues, cannot do this. However, with each screening of The Clock tied so closely to the metronome of real life, this work of art manages to exist in the same time and space as a viewer in a new way, creating, perhaps, a more authentic experience than most other films, whether or not the film is infinitely reproducible (which it technically is not, as The Clock is a limited edition).

This past Tuesday a gallery representative claimed that the line to enter the gallery was one to one and a half hours long. I suggest you block out a few of hours sometime before Saturday night and head over to Paula Cooper. The gallery is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. through Thursday. Its final continuous run at Paula Cooper begins this Friday February 18, at 10 a.m. The show ends Saturday February 19, at exactly 6 p.m.

CM-118-V-still-6-web.jpg©Christian Marclay. Courtesy Paula Cooper Gallery, New York.

Copyright 2011 Jamie Goldenberg

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Jamie Goldenberg is Guernica’s assistant art editor.

To read Jamie’s recent interview with photojournalist Glenna Gordon and others at GUERNICA, click HERE .

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