Christian Marclay : The Clock

Tate Modern 14 September 2018 – 20 January 2019

Installation View.Tate Modern. Christian Marclay, The Clock 2010. Single-channel video installation, duration 24 hours. Tate Photography (Matt Greenwood).

Being eclipsed, suspended and enslaved by time is our real-time immersion in modern life, moving inevitably towards eternal midnight.Christian Marclay takes what it is to be human and winds it into the mechanism of TheClock so seamlessly, with such artistry and grace, that words like ‘genius’and ‘masterpiece’ are entirely justified. After experiencing three-and-a-half-hoursof this work, I was profoundly moved, elated and frustrated that watching the full 24hrs wasn’t an option during my visit. There aren’t many works of “NOW” I’d want to spend that kind of time with, but The Clock is something else. It’s a work of art you enter into and become part of, rather than passively watch. Marclay has managed to create a work as addictive as the multidimensional concept of time and existence it encapsulates, an unrelenting and strangely beautiful meditation on time running out for us all. Despite its modern materials and contemporary masterwork status, Marclay’s Clock transcends the time it was made. It speaks of universal human experience through sound and image in a compelling, urgent way. I place ‘sound’ first, because Marclay’s craft and foundation as an artist is making objects from audio. The Clock is a highly distilled example drawn from a lifetime’s exploration, which is the real source of its genius.Fortunately for the UK, one of six limited edition copies of The Clock has now entered the Tate collection, jointly purchased with the Centre Pompidou, Paris and the Israel Museum, Jerusalem.

Originally commissioned by The White Cube, London, where it debuted in 2010, The Clock is an incredible artistic achievement in its union of concept and craft. A montage composed of over 12,000 clips, spanning 100 years of film and television,screened over 24 hours in real time may sound like a work tailor-made for film geeks. (And I won’t lie, part of my irrepressible joy in this work stems from that.) However, the way that Marclay handles this material brings wider frames of reference and association brilliantly into play. Although it is an epic work of art, film and human history, The Clock is also a very intimate experience, where your own projections/ narratives meet those of the maker(s). I heard quite a few people on exit reminiscing with friends and family, delighted, thoughtful and wondering in awe about how it was made. Marclay was aided by six assistants in finding and sorting suitable material over three years. However, the vast amount of footage needed to construct The Clock isn’t as impressive as the skill required to create cohesion and expanded meaning in the final 24 hr edit. The most powerful sense of identification inside this work isn’t ultimately based on how many film-clips you recognise, entwined with your own viewing/ life history, but with the collective human orientation towards understanding. Wonder and curiosity are as much a part of the projection as the threat of advancing time and fear of death. In human terms The Clock is an admission and a creative act of defiance, a monument to human perception and memory that makes us who and what we are.

Film Still. Christian Marclay, The Clock 2010. Single-channel video installation, duration 24 hours. Courtesy of White Cube, London and Paula Cooper Gallery, New York.

As a species we’re hardwired to construct meaning and aspire to dreams, a trajectory held in tension with the fact that as time marches on, we edge closer to becoming dust, akin to celluloid ash. Human mortalityand vulnerability are part of what makes The Clock tick. The ways we are driven and shaped by time, as concept and physical reality, permeate every frame in ways that are playful, ironic and visionary. I loved the free, associative power of this work, providing triggers for the viewer’s imagination within an ever-evolving structure of interwoven narratives. Although there are human hands at work in The Clock’s construction, it’s the individual and collective minds of the audience that are the beating heart of this work. Sound and image overlap, contradict and elevate moments of recognition. Marclay’s command, not just of film language and genre, but the ways we see, is so astute, that my trust in where I was being taken was absolute. I really didn’t want to leave and would have happily gone with the flow for the full 24 hrs. Punctuated with humour, suspense and sublime poetry, The Clock is a work that illuminates beyond expectation. Many people are cynical about contemporary art, the value and spaces it occupies, but here is a work that places value on the imagination and intelligence of audiences, to do what we do naturally as human beings. Making connections and creating meaning is the elusive essence of life we’re all trying to grasp in one way or another. In The Clock, Fine Art meets mass media in ways that the internet has failed to democratise. You need Craft and contact with people to create beyond instantaneous self-gratification. This is what makes The Clock such an enriching experience, the sense of being part of something bigger, but no less powerful than an independent mind.  You know you’re not alone in the dark and the longer you stay within the span of this work, the more it reveals, somewhere between the conscious and unconscious.That emerging process of recognition feels poignant and true, part of the extended, real time experience. However long we choose (or are able) to spend inside it, Marclay has created a space we are free to bring ourselves to and actively dream in, a homage to the enduring magic of cinema. This love for form and material makes a world of difference in any made object. It’s an investment of time and energy that can transform how we see and the world around us.

Film Still. Christian Marclay, The Clock 2010. Single-channel video installation, duration 24 hours. Courtesy White Cube, London and Paula Cooper Gallery, New York.

At base we are watching, waiting and anticipating the mundane and extraordinary pattern of life in a perfectly synchronised 24-hrcycle. Common experiences at different times of day like waking or clocking off connect audiences, together with genres of popular entertainment. Commentary ontime takes many forms, through image, dialogue and sound. We don’t need a degree in film studies to feel the dramatic arc or emotional trajectory of that exploration. Consciously or not, we know what it is to be a hostage in cinema. Our Western Pop culture viewing is steeped in Hollywood fuelled conventions watching Westerns, Thrillers or Rom-Coms play out on screens big and small. It’s the same when we hear a symphonic piece of music. Despite the variation, the core material is deeply, culturally, known to us and it is rare that we are not reassuringly returned to the home key by the end of the performance. Marclay’s final destination may be unknown, but the journey is knowingly crafted and deeply empathic in terms of the visual creatures we are. If this sounds too intellectual, I can assure you it isn’t- while you’re watching The Clock, you may be conscious of time elapsing, but you’re not conscious of the mechanism and are free to create your own moments out of it, something barely afforded time in everyday life. It is hugely enjoyable, laugh out loud funny and deeply resonant to be confronted with images anchored in your own time, whether iconic or incidental. The Clock’s crafted stream of consciousness overlaps with the visual soundtrack of our lives and personal memories. It also contradicts that familiarity, shattering time with the suggestion that it is an invention; a ‘clock on a mantlepiece [was] a magician’s trick a few hundred years ago.’ The worlds of Art and Science merge in human ingenuity and invention, driven by our ageless desire for knowledge and control. In the late afternoon, a clip from the 1950’s presented a Marclay induced fable about apowerful Sultan with control of time, coupled with the dangerous, all-consuming need to know how time is spent. Our relationship with the technology of the day is simultaneously questioned, realised and foreshadowed for generations to come.

Film Still. Christian Marclay, The Clock 2010. Single-channel video installation, duration 24 hours. Courtesy of White Cube, London and Paula Cooper Gallery, New York.

In many ways The Clock is a mirror where moments of fiction and history emerge out of each other, stimulating deeper reflection. In one scene, we see a pocket watch and running medal, inanimate objects from Peter Weir’s Gallipoli reinterpreted by sound and the fluid slip into the next cut. In the original film, the human absence of soldiers gone over the top at the designated time becomes the injustice of life wilfully extinguished by man. The film once watched is also a memory, with its own unfurling narratives in the mind of theviewer. However, the beauty of this clip lies in the clarity of the edit, which presents us with objects of association, in that moment and for all time. ‘Remember time is luck’ we hear in another scene, which comes towards the clocking off end of Marclay’s momentous day in the life of humanity. The relentless drive for knowledge and progress is acknowledged by another character in our fellow cast of millions; ‘when my clock stops, I die.’  Without awareness, arguably there is no point in living, which is why we need art. Marclay appeals equally to instinct and intellect, beating seconds out with a watch on railings and percussive fingertips, bodily ticks that are part of the film’s dramatic acceleration, moving in and out of consciousness. The ease and boredom of the familiar is contained in that measure of time too, part of the realism of The Clock, potentially experienced in the gallery for a full 24hrs or for a lifetime in the world outside.

Marclay’s prescribed installation space is a womb of imagination,a submerged twilight world somewhere between cinema, gallery, sacred and domestic space, punctuated by rows of identical white Ikea couches. The light from the screen creates an otherworldly glow and the movement of people coming and going, mirrors the progression of arrivals and departures on screen. Coming from the winding, packed queue outside, you plunge into the dark, finding your way to an available seat with the 21 x 12 foot (6.4 x 3.7m) flickering screenlight to guide you. There are jostled whispers and negotiation, sometimes finding yourself uncomfortably positioned in three seated combination with pairs of visitors. It made me wonder how British I’d become and if other screenings around the globe carried their own nuanced etiquette. In joining the audience and sharing viewing space normally made more comfortable and anonymous by individually designated seats, lines between public and private domains blur.There is also the blur of time we encounter in the near dark, a meeting of generations and memories, invoking human ritual, storytelling and spirituality from prehistoric cave to modern auditorium. The audience is part of the rhythm of the work and the ingenious way it constructs moments of identification and clarity. In the same way that listening to music is direct, immersive and abstract, there’s a sense of going with the flow, being half lead by the regularity of time and entering alternate levels of awareness. That hypnotic quality feels like a comfort and release from the crazy spin of 21stCentury life outside, doubly so circa 2018. We’ve grown accustomed to anavalanche of recycled shows, images and Gifs via You Tube, Vimeo, social media and streaming services. The superlative difference here is the structural intricacy of Marclay’s work and its emotive core, led by the his chosen discipline.

Installation View. Tate Modern. Christian Marclay, The Clock 2010. Single-channel video installation, duration 24 hours. Tate Photography (Matt Greenwood).

Marclay’s clock is a great architectural and cinematic symphony that moves the viewer in unexpected ways, harnessing every moment of the metaphorical ‘flicker.’ It’s the ephemeral nature of light in cinema and the slippage between frames. The illusion of continuity, the gap between each stilled image that has us reaching and constructing the next, to continue the sequence because our lives depend on it. That imaginative, unconscious pause is something that no device outside can deliver. The hook or Hookland between frames is the substance and soul of film. Like a great composer, Marclay weaves breath-taking open variations on themes, the product of editing and sound design honed over a 35-year career. Marclay described the editing process as “the most fun…finding connecting bridges…cutaways where one action happens in one film and the reaction happens in another. Someone opens a door, enters a different world, a different film. These editing tricks are used to create this sense of continuity, this flow, and this make believe…”

When The Clockwon the Golden Lion at the 2011 Venice Biennale, Marclay thanked the jury for giving the work ‘its fifteen minutes of fame.’ Our Western consumer culture has made pursuit of that ‘15 minutes’ a way of life, in ways Warhol never envisaged. My feeling is that The Clock, in concept, execution and reception, constitutes more than a fleeting moment of recognition. Marclay’s sublime and illuminating work brings the truth of fiction resoundingly into focus. Like the observation that ‘bad things last longer than good’, my time with The Clock ended too soon. Very few people will be able to watch the whole 24 hrs, with only a handful of screenings outside normal gallery hours. Though I long to see the descent into Noir and where Marclay’s film leaves the audience in the final frame, I wouldn’t want to experience The Clock any other way but as intended, in an expansive, communal space of the artist’s making.  ‘Can you give my time back to me?’ asks Samuel L Jackson in one scene, no, you can never have it back, but for me The Clock is time well spent. Out of my life’s memories, of all the art I’ve ever seen, this moment is true. I know because I leave the darkened room with tears in my eyes and cross the threshold,awakened to the world outside seeming brighter. Where there is art like this, there is awareness and hope. 

Danish Diaspora – Scotland Seen Through Danish Eyes.

Danish Cultural Institute, Edinburgh.

1 August to 28 September 2014 and touring in 2015.

Amongst the madness and sensory overload of the Edinburgh Fringe I had the pleasure to be blissfully still in the Danish Cultural Institute’s gallery space for a wonderful exhibition of work by Lotte Glob, Lise Bech, Lillian Busch, Mette Fruergaard and Nickolai Globe. What struck me immediately was the sense of a living tradition of ancient Craft skills fused with Fine Art disciplines and striking Contemporary Design. What is so exciting about this show is the way that traditional Crafts such as Ceramics, Weaving, Gold and Silversmithing incorporate elements of the Scottish landscape to transform the viewer’s perception of place and genre. Each artist reveals the integrity of handmade objects as part of a tradition of seeing ourselves in relation to our chosen environment; tapping into a deep seam of knowledge and indigenous understanding of place and materials.  This is an expansive show in terms of what Craft can be, blurring the lines between Applied and Fine Arts, reflecting the dynamically fluid relationship between the two in many artist’s studios.

Lotte Glob Moon Pool Lotte Glob Rock Eyes

Lotte Glob, Moon Pool,Rock Eyes

Displayed on one wall Lotte Glob’s superb sequence of sculptural plates are of a cosmic scale in the imagination. In form and feeling Moon Pool seems to encompass the entire world and its eternal cycles. Crater Pool with its iridescent ultramarine core is another magnificent example. The use of materials and handling of glazes create an imaginative space of deep time; molten stone dripping into the centre, colours and textures evocative of ice, fire and millennia of Geological change. Glob’s work is forged physically and spiritually from the landscape. It is made of that land, from rocks and sediments gathered from the mountainous Scottish Highlands, home to the artist since 1968. In the beautiful and mysterious free standing sculptures Rock Eyes and Boulder Eyes we can sense a human eye and mind perceiving the landscape; the land and collective memory staring back at us, a tangible connection to a long history of seeing and making. Glob’s work presents a symbiotic relationship between Art and Life. There is tremendous respect for natural, primordial forces communicated in her work that never fails to inspire. She is an artist living consciously in her chosen environment, with tenacity, joy and a lifetime’s experience in every work. In the Western canon Creativity is often defined in terms of masculine energy and egotism. Lotte Glob’s work is a more expansive exchange that redefines our relationship with the natural world and the role of creativity in our lives. Many of the artist’s works are returned to the landscape, placed in lochans and on mountain paths, a natural gallery. At her sculpture croft on the shores of Loch Eriboll she has created “a place for discovering…, contemplating and enjoying a point in the universe” consistent with her life’s work.

mette fruergaard, wall boxes Mette fruergaard, box, aluminium,beech and resin

Boxes by Mette Fruergaard

Mette Fruergaard’s finely crafted boxes seamlessly combine materials such as wood, aluminium, copper, bone, resin and concrete in a union of form and function. Many of these are almost architectural in form, an unexpectedly beautiful fusion of organic and industrial design consistent with the Danish tradition but with the subtle accents of colour and light typical of the changing Scottish seasons. Fruergaard-Jensen’s “silent language of materials” is also revealed in selected pieces hung above the main display of boxes which invite the viewer to contemplate the tactile beauty of raw materials; the powdery midnight patina of a lump of  charcoal or the playful suggestion of a lion in wood grain. Using found and recycled materials highly finished surfaces are contrasted with textures formed by time and weather.

Lise Bech Venus and Mars dancing2 Lise Bech Venus and Mars dancing1

Lise Bech- Venus and Mars Dancing (2), Venus and Mars Dancing (1).

Lise Bech’s basketry immediately invokes a world of Iron Age Crannogs; functional forms of creels, platters and cauldrons melded with expressive, asymmetrical, contemporary form. The scents of natural materials like willow are part of experiencing this work, creating powerful associations across time, transporting the viewer beyond the city gallery space and into the countryside. The rhythm of the weave feels as central to this Craft as the natural cycles of growth and harvest that provide raw materials for Bech’s Art. The wall piece Venus and Mars Dancing (Lath & Willow) evokes an eternal pattern of mythology and creative energies, masculine and feminine. Celtic Coil Cauldron (Salix p. Dicky Meadows) has its own distinctive energy, defying functionality as a poetic object woven from multiple traditions. Bech’s basketry aligns itself to a state of being in relation to the landscape; a return to Craft as a signifier of social and cultural cohesion, rooted in the earth. Its ancestry is simultaneously Viking, Celtic and in terms of why human beings need to create in the first place, universal in origin. What many contemporary Artists/ Makers bring to our attention is the rhythm of a living Art that connects us to the natural environment. Both in the making and experiencing of the work there is a meditative element in play, a powerful antidote to an age of mass attention deficit and unprecedented technological and social change.

Lilian Busch, Bangle silver,gold, diamonds

Bangle by Lilian Busch

Lillian Busch’s jewellery also provides points of recognition and delight on an intimate scale; worn on the body, close to the skin. Bangle (46.Silver, 9 & 18 ct Gold, Diamonds) in its incredibly subtle use of gems could be likened to a pin prick of light seen through a dewdrop. The unexpected oxidised finish of this piece invites closer inspection in its sensitive rendering of materials. Unlike the usual use of sparkling diamonds and shiny metals to proclaim wealth and status, Busch’s work doesn’t reveal itself immediately but allows its richness and beauty to unfold. Inspired in early life by the Danish jeweller Ingeborg Mølsted, Busch’s designs incorporate ancient forms like the Torque from Viking and Bronze Age jewellery. Neckpiece (34. (9ct Gold, Jade, Silver, Rubber, Bayonet Clasp) feels almost ceremonial in function; an inventive combination of precious traditional and everyday industrial materials to create an intimate object of adornment and human connection.

Nickolai Globe, Mantle3

Detail from the Mantle Series by Nickolai Globe

Nickolai Globe’s high fired ceramics of earthenware, porcelain, stoneware and minerals are arresting for their elemental, physical embodiment of natural forces. Ova for example with its volcanically ashen surface feels like an egg of creation and primitive shield, there at the beginning of all human life; protective and expansive, microscopic and cosmic in its associations. Vessel Core with its stalactite- like form and finger marked surface could be a geological sample or the record of an entire species and its core beliefs. There is a blurring of lines between the naturally formed and man-made structures in Globe’s work which is immersive and intriguing. Relic reads like a naturally occurring piece of fossilised earth marked by the tracks of an unknown species, it is impossible to know where the hand of nature and the hand of the artist begin and end. Similarly the boat-like vessel Kronos with its ridged formation like eroded sandstone is both immediately tactile and physical, but also  an excavation of collective archeology. The artist’s series of sculptures Mantle; 3, 4, 5 & 6 present the raw physicality of a living crust of rock and earth being formed, twisting and turning, ancient forces suspended in time. Blackened by the fires of creative energy it is also the mythologies we cloak ourselves in. There is reverence for the natural world in this work together with reverence for the artist as maker in pieces such as Ferrous Manus. Globe’s Art reflects his work with COBRA Group ceramic artist Erik Nyholm in Denmark, rooted in the folkloric tradition and Thanakupi , renowned ceramic artist and Aboriginal Elder from the Cape York Pennisula, Queensland, Australia, in its exploration of ancestral narratives and indigenous understanding of the earth.

Exploring the relationship between natural and man-made forms is a major strength in the work of Artists, Designers and Architects from both the Danish and Scottish traditions in terms of continuity and innovation. Historically this visual literacy has been recognised in a European, rather than a National or UK context which is why exhibitions like this one are so important as part of a process of cultural reappraisal on an international stage. The work in this exhibition represents a state of being in relation to Craft; part of a living, breathing  tradition rather than a revival or a memorial to ways of seeing long past. As an ex-pat Australian I am fascinated by the cultural migration of people and ideas, how visual language, mythologies and narratives evolve, fuelled by people, place and memory. What “Danish eyes” bring to our understanding of the land I also call home is dynamically charged, full of subtlety and complex associations. It is uniquely of its place and universally global in scope, bringing us closer to the vital spark of why human beings need to make Art in the first place- to make sense of the world and ourselves within it.

Danish DiasporaScotland Seen Through Danish Eyes

At the Danish Cultural Institute, Edinburgh until 28th September, then touring in 2015 to;

Peter Potter Gallery, 2 February – 28 March 2015

Rozelle Hopuse Gallery, 11 April – 17 May

Highland Regional Museums, 1 June – 28 August

Bonhoga Gallery, Shetland, 12 September – 25 October

www.dancult.co.uk

Artist’s websites;

www.lotteglob.co.uk

http://mettefruergaardjensen.com

http://bechbaskets.net

http://lillianbusch.com

www.missionhousestudio.blogspot.co.uk