December 29, 2012

A Perfect Year-End Visit - "The Clock" at MoMA

As 2012 dwindles down to the last few days and hours and I was casting about for an appropriate year-end blog topic, a spur of the moment visit to the Museum of Modern Art provided an ideal solution!  A perfect combination of past and present, literal and abstract, familiar and foreign, and a commentary on the passage of time during this season of reflection and looking forward.  I'm talking about "The Clock" a film installation by video artist Christian Marclay that is playing for a limited time in the Museum's Contemporary Galleries on the second floor.

I was particularly pleased to discover that "The Clock" was being shown again in New York so soon after I missed it this past summer at the David Rubenstein Atrium at Lincoln Center.  Frankly, I had no idea what it was about and found the whole concept confusing until a friend said "GO" but by then it was too late.  It was a serendipitous second chance for me to redeem myself and experience what all the fuss was about!

In a nutshell, "The Clock" is a 24-hour montage of thousands of scenes culled from the last century of cinema.  The kicker is that the 24 hours are passed in real time with each scene containing an indication of the hour and minute, for example a glance at a watch, all synchronized to the actual time.  There is no need to sneak a peak at your cell phone to see what time it is - you are always aware of the exact hour and minute and often second as on-screen chronographs and conversations keep a running account of its passage.

But it's not as dry as simply looking at timepieces ticking away.  Mr Marclay, a Swiss artist born in 1955, took three years to assemble and arrange mountains of film scenes to present a somewhat cohesive but totally fantastic assemblage that takes 24 hours, exactly.  There is no real start or finish.  At midnight the loop just starts again with events and activities ranging from the mundane like dining or catching a train to the more exciting bank heist, car chase or tryst!  He has gathered material from movies as varied as "High Noon", "When Harry Met Sally", "Easy Rider", "In the Mood for Love" and "The Silence of the Lambs" and joined them together in a masterpiece of film editing that might just be the most compelling movie experience you have ever had.

Not that you have to stay the entire 24 hours, mind you!  Visitors to MoMA must queue up (the line moved remarkably quickly) to gain entry into a very comfortable viewing room complete with sofas that seat four.  There is no time limit - although one is always acutely aware of how much time is passing - and the action on the screen, held together only by the constant ticking of the clock, is mesmerizing.  Due to practical reasons, visitors are generally limited to the opening hours of the Museum, but for New Years Eve one can reserve tickets to a very special 24 hour screening, complete with festive food and drink, and revel in the pure pleasure of this continuously surprising juxtaposition of movie scenes.

As 2013 draws swiftly closer, and we reflect on the past year and our desires for the next, "The Clock" is a marvelous metaphor for the relentless march of time, but with no end - although you only have until January 21st to catch it at MoMA!

Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to thank my loyal readers for another great year in the blogosphere and to wish you good health, happiness and success in all you undertake in the New Year!

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