Tick Of The Clock: A 24-Hour Supercut Of Time Displayed In Film And TV

Tick Of The Clock: A 24-Hour Supercut Of Time Displayed In Film And TV

The Clock is a 24-hour supercut of over 12,000 clips from more than 1,200 films all stitched together to reflect the exact time of day that you are viewing it.

By Liam O'Donnell

By now, some of you are probably feeling like it’s been a month of Sundays. Where one day bleeds into the next without hesitation or cessation, and every day feels a week long. While that may be a less than desirable topic to ruminate on, it got me thinking about a time themed visual art display I personally had the opportunity to partially view in 2017 at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston: The Clock.

The Clock is a 24-hour supercut created by Swiss-American artist Christian Marclay. This day-long cinematic collage is comprised of over 12,000 clips from over 1,200 films all stitched together to reflect the exact time of day that you are viewing it. So, when you see Will Smith look down at his Casio and it reads 03:19, it’s actually 03:19 in real life! The genre-blending catalog of films includes movies from the 1920s through the 2000s with classics like Pulp Fiction, Blade Runner, Donnie Darko, Apocalypse Now, and many, many more.

On The Cutting Room Floor

It took Marclay and six assistants about three years to compile, arrange, mix, and finish the epic project. The work debuted in 2010, at the White Cube Gallery in London, and has since been shown in many galleries and art spaces around the world during its nine-year tour. The final screenings before the film was retired were held at The Polygon Gallery in North Vancouver in 2019.

The Clock was universally well received and won a number of awards, and the Venice Biennale awarded Marclay the prestigious Golden Lion Award for best artist in 2011. In total, six editions of the film and two artist proofs were made, each sold to a major art institution. The copy I was lucky enough to see was jointly owned by the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and the National Gallery of Canada.

Despite my love of time and timepieces, I didn’t discover The Clock on my own. It was recommended to me by my fiancé’s mother, who in her spare time, is a docent at some of Boston’s most famous galleries. During a regular trip up to Boston from New York, we decided to go and check it out. I had not done too much reading up on either Christian Marclay or the film, so I really didn’t have much idea of what the installation was about. All I knew was that it focused on the faces of timepieces and the concept of time itself.

Movie Night

The Clock was displayed in a small and dim white space that the museum made into a private viewing room, holding about 15 people at most. The room was never empty, with steady streams of people coming in to sit down for a few minutes or a few hours. The MFA even stayed open for the full 24-hour runtime of the film, so anyone who wanted to watch it from start to finish could do so. And while it was easy to become mesmerized by the film, you never lost track of time. After all, it was always on the screen.

In almost every scene, you see someone looking at their wristwatch, a large building clock in the background, or hear someone say the time. The sound and mixing throughout my entire viewing were seamless. Sounds would carry briefly from one scene to the next, or they even would be cut in such a way as to give the illusion that two different scenes are from the same movie. For example, Ben Stiller picks up the phone in Envy, asking, “Hello?” And Maggie Gyllenhaal responds in Secretary, as if she’s on the other end. Depending on what portion of the film you’re viewing, you may see famous clocks, such as Big Ben, or well-known wristwatch brands such as Rolex.

Creatures Of Habit

What I found most interesting about the clips Marclay decided to use is that it felt like there was a narrative. There is a story being told, despite the disparate nature of the scenes. And whilst it’s not the story of an individual, it is the story of human beings in the modern era.

Beginning at midnight, there is a lot of excitement and activity with people going out, partying, working. Then, you get to the wee witching hours, where the happenings turn more nefarious as crimes are committed, and illicit substances are consumed. But, as the sun begins to rise, the baker gets up to make bread and alarm clocks ring.

Before long, it’s time to catch the train, get to that meeting. Noon approaches fast with Run Lola, Run, and things become more exciting again. Midday in the film is marked by bells tolling in High Noon, and time begins to slow. As the workday begins to wane, people start commuting to the next phase of their day. Dinners are had at home, in restaurants, and eaten out. Parties, theaters, and shows begin to start as the evening progresses towards midnight.

Finally, as the clock reaches midnight and the two hands merge, you are presented with the haunting scene from The Stranger where (spoiler alert!) Orson Welles is skewered on the infamous clock tower, followed by a climactic explosion courtesy of V For Vendetta.

For A Limited Time Only

By now, you’re probably thinking, “The Clock sounds awesome, where can I stream it?”. Unfortunately, you can’t. It’s not available for viewing anywhere — for now.

It appears that the art institutions that have exhibited the film retired it, for the time being, so you’ll need to keep an eye and an ear out for when they decide to show it again. If you can’t wait that long, you may be able to find a few unauthorized clips of it floating around the Internet (but you didn’t hear that from me). Consider yourself a bit of a cinephile? You can find an extensive list of films used in The Clock HERE. Otherwise, we’ll just have to hope that it will somehow be released soon.

Because, in the middle of weeks of social distancing, we could all use a 24-hour distraction.

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