Is it a movie? Is it a work of modern video art?
It doesn’t matter. The Clock – a 24-hour video by artist Christian Marclay that’s currently making its Southern premiere at the Contemporary Arts Center – is something worth experiencing.
Winner of the Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale in 2011, there’s no story in The Clock, just a carefully assembled series of over 8,000 film clips from the past 100 years of film history, featuring clocks and watches synched to real time (12:12 in life is 12:12 in the film), for twenty-four hours.
The piece, which The Guardian called “a masterpiece for our times,” has traveled around the world and inspired 5-hour long lines at MoMA and LACMA.
I caught a couple hours in the early afternoon this past weekend. After getting over the initial mini-thrill of realizing that yes, in fact, the clocks in the film match the time of day, I settled into the continuous clips from both classic movies and not so classic, both foreign and domestic. A scene featuring a young Anthony Hopkins might lead into a Chinese gangster movie, which could lead to a classic 80’s movie, which could then lead into a black-and-white French film, which could then lead to a clip of an older Anthony Hopkins.
I’m guessing Anthony Hopkins, given his impressive body of work, shows up frequently during the film’s 24 hours. That was another enjoyment – catching the acting greats at various stages of their careers, sometimes delivering well-written, poignant lines, sometimes not.
One thing I was not counting on, however, was that there were several funny moments – from watching Donald Sutherland hand someone a giant, late 80’s era cellphone to seeing Ronald Reagan talk in stilted ‘60’s lingo. Add that to hearing Christopher Walken tell Johnny Depp, ‘you have exactly twenty-eight minutes to get your s—t together’ (although, admittedly, Christopher Walken can make just about anything sound funny).
There was also the fun of trying to name the movies on screen, as well as the palpable anticipation as the hour approaches, as scenes of bells and chimes and alarms take over the screen.
Prospect New Orleans is hosting the Southern premiere, which has run free and open-to-the-public since November 10, and will continue through December 4. For a full schedule and live updates on visiting The Clock, visit ProspectNewOrleans.org and Prospect’s Twitter account, @Prospect_NOLA.
As seating is limited, admission to the installation will be on a first-come, first-served basis, with no time limits for viewers. People can come and go as they please, and there will be food trucks to keep people fed.