Monday, February 14, 2011

Christian Marclay : The Clock : Paula Cooper, NYC

This exhibition, which will only be on view until February 19th, is a five star affair. Everyone is talking about it, well everyone in the art world, but this is wonderfully a show that should be and can be seen by the big “E” everyone. It is a 24 hour video that has taken scenes from movies past and present and edited in such a way that each hour, minute, sometimes second, is shown, spoken or glimpsed in sync with eastern standard time. The effect is dizzying, exciting and hypnotic.

The show is fortunately/unfortunately only possible to see in its 24-hour entirety on Fridays, when Paula Cooper Gallery has it staffed from 10 am Friday to 6pm Saturday, but any time you can view it, you should. I went at about 9:00pm, be prepared to wait in a line. Once inside, there is a theater, rows of tightly lined cushioned chairs; they were full so I sat on the floor. On the large screen is this video, a video of films, spliced together in a cacophony of images, sounds and plots. There are things you remember seeing; movies, characters, music scores and they open the pupil of recognition and then just as swiftly trigger something new. Even the scenes that you have no specific memory of recall, a familiarity. All of these movies and films are a part of our collective cultural memory one that is more vigorously inculcated then religion, especially so if you are raised in the United States.

The constant movement of scenes does require heightened adrenaline but it is made easier to follow because of the clock. The image, announcement, and notation of the exact time threads each scene and makes what is happening on screen feel even more real. This also creates a strange reversal, the idea of you in a film, the moment you are watching the video as being apart of another film, of you being both spectator and spectacle. It makes the moments seem relevant somehow. This threading of time also creates suspense, maybe more especially at night. It was nearing 9:15pm and the scenes were mostly dark and the stories and the players were of the night. This is a strange time when you either go home or you stay out. As movies tend to be dramatic, there was little evidence that going to bed, well at least to sleep, was an option. The later it was getting the more ominous it felt, the more sexual, the more silhouettes and shadows. I left before things got too sexy or too bloody, but it is something I would have liked to see unfold. Doesn’t 3am sound both marvelous and terrifying?!

The level of sheer success of this piece is undoubtedly its maker. Christian Marclay is just too damned good. He always has been the type of artist that if you like him, you will always like him and I image he’s an artist’s artist as well. There are fewer people who are both as consistent and evolving as he is. He has specific areas that he is known for, music, kinetics, electronics, and he pushes those to a place that is not, or maybe can not even be pushed into an -ism. For this video it has been noted that he had 6 full time assistants cull through films and movies for the time scenes but that he edited the video himself. His specific way of doing that task has resulted in this fantastic experience that is dense, rhythmic and a touch of technical magic that is specifically Marclay.

Dissonance is a word that I think of often when I approach Marclay’s work but not in a pejorative way. Marclay takes that which is seemingly incongruent, unpliant, harsh, and pushes it so far into itself that it transforms into a seamless wave of sound or images. There is a coolness to his work, to his method, formulaic but so direct and to the point in its finish that it is with awe that you track his methods versus annoyed process for process sake cleverness. The Clock is so completely applauded by those who experience it because the final thing, this 24-hour video trip, is masterful and that, in anything, is rare.