Time is Running Out to See Christian Marclay's "The Clock"

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

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

We seldom think about the connotations of a clock when it hangs unnoticed in the back wall of a room, but as soon as our eye meets its ticking hands, an emotional reaction is inevitable. Christian Marclay’s “The Clock” analyzes time-based art using time itself, taking the viewer on a 24-hour journey through every era of film. Every minute is a clip from a film that notes the exact time to the second, synched up to the time zone of its exhibition space.

While the film itself has no plot or continuous narrative, it manages to build and break tension on a scene-by-scene basis. It follows the expectations built by decades of cinema, traveling from one dark hallway to another. Every minute compounds our anxiety and desire for the suspense to culminate into some resolution, before suddenly subverting it and switching gears completely. Each character waits for something that will never occur, runs after something they will never reach, introduces a gun which will never be fired. Sometimes several seconds pass without any sign of a clock, and you find yourself waiting, searching for someone to show you the time.

Filled with action, humor and intrigue, The Clock is a multifaceted examination of our relationship with time, built from the most time-reliant medium. It acknowledges the expectations and emotional impulses generated by an awareness of time without indulgence, and brings us face-to-face with our mortality by simply letting us watch it pass.

The Clock is on view at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston through January 29th, 2017.