Christian Marclay

Winner of the Golden Lion at the 2011 Venice Biennale, The Clock is a virtuoso montage of thousands of color and black and white film clips in which the time appears, one way or another. Wristwatches, pocket watches, clocks, digital displays, pendulum clocks, alarm clocks, alarms, hourglasses, display panels, but also chimes and voices—all announce the time and concretely mark time’s passage. The time we see on the screen coincides exactly with the actual time, minute for minute, no matter where the film is shown. The work has no beginning and no end: it starts the moment one enters the screening room and ends when one leaves. 

This 24-hour-long montage, however, is far more than just a visual depiction of time. It is a tribute to cinema and actors; movie lovers will recognize certain films and stars. By interweaving film sequences from around the world—from celebrated and classic films to B movies, blockbusters, silent films, Hollywood TV series, comedies, westerns, film noir, science fiction and war movies—The Clock is a journey through the history of cinema. The work is also about films that have shaped our collective imagination and are part of our personal stories. The Clock’s montage of excerpts does not suggest any sort of storyline or plot. The flow of the images, however, with its sequencing of sus­penseful and dramatic scenes, encourage the viewer to construct a kind of narrative, but one which is constantly interrupted by segments reminding us of time’s passage. One never forgets what time it is.

In addition to being an impressive film montage, The Clock is also a musical composition. Marclay uses sound—a concert of ringtones, chimes, tick-tocks, footsteps, laughter, music and closing doors—to create transitions between sequences and create a veritable musical score.

Thousands of film clips went into the 1,440-minute installation. This required extensive research, screenings and cataloging by the artist’s team of assistants. Marclay then embarked on the lengthy and meticulous task of putting the clips into their final form.

Marclay is a master in the art of collage, mixing and sampling, His previous works have shown his ability to take fragments from the cinematographic repertoire to create compositions that are both visual and auditory. With The Clock, Marclay pushed this aesthetic of the fragment to the pinnacle of artistry, creating a cadenced, accessible work that is as playful as it is thought-provoking.

  • Organized by Françoise Ninghetto with Fondation Plaza
  • In collaboration with Ola
FONDATION MAMCOÉtat de GenèveVille de GenèveJTIFondation LeenaardsFondation genevoise de bienfaisance Valeria Rossi di Montelera