When I first started writing about film, my research focused on cinematic representations of time. This research centered on various forms of time travel films (broadly defined) and rested on some of Walter Benjamin’s theories about how film, with its inexorable flow of film stills through a projector, echoed the rhythms of industrial capitalism, as we might see in features such as the assembly line or the railroad. I was intrigued by ideas about how time travel films engaged with the linear flow of time, but underlying that research was an interest in how films depict the passage of time or our engagement with time. That research faded as I became more interested in the political economy of film distribution, but that original research interest, which led to a couple of publications on Dark City and Sans Soleil, sometimes re-emerges in unexpected ways.
With that in mind, I am incredibly fascinated by this BBC report about Christian Marclay’s The Clock, a fascinating film installation, which plays non-stop for 24 hours a day showing clips from movies in which that particular clock time is depicted on screen. Thus, if it is 11:19 AM, as it is while I compose this entry, the film shows a scene from a movie in which a clock or watch flashes that particular time on screen. As the BBC reporter points out, the film makes the viewer incredibly conscious of time, well after they walk out of a (presumably partial) screening. On another level, this seems like the kind of project that becomes much more viable in an age of compilation videos on YouTube, in which massive amounts of movie content remains available in a giant cinematic database, waiting to be cited and recited, configured and reconfigured as we seek to navigate our way through visual culture.
The Clock is playing at the Paula Cooper Gallery in New York until February 19, and I’d love to hear from anyone who has watched it to get a sense of your experiences with it.