At the movies · In the news · Notes from West London

“The Clock”: this is where we came in, over and over again

Well, this is exciting. Earlier this week the Tate Modern began screening “The Clock”, described on the gallery’s website as “a mesmerising masterpiece of contemporary art”. It was created by Christian Marclay, is 24 hours long, and, again in the words of the Tate’s website, “the installation is a montage of thousands of film and television images of clocks, edited together so they show the actual time. It is a thrilling journey through cinematic history as well as a functioning timepiece”. I can well believe it. It is being shown until 20 January next year. There will be a number of round-the-clock screenings, at least one weekend per month. They had one in the last 48 hours, running from Thursday night into Friday morning, but I didn’t hear about it until it was too late.

Yesterday evening I caught 45 minutes of “The Clock”, from 17.25 to 18.10. In that segment there were clips I recognized from many films, including “Brief Encounter”, “The Man With X-Ray Eyes”, “Gambit”, “The Tin Drum”, “Mary Poppins” and (appropriately enough) “The Time Machine”. I hope to watch the other 23 hours and 15 minutes at some point in the next four months. It should be straightforward enough to see the hours from 9am to 10pm during the coming 18 weekends (the gallery is open until 10pm on Fridays), but trying to catch the hours between 10pm and 9am will require some detailed advance planning. My previous experiences of getting up in the middle of the night to follow Ashes cricket from Australia should be helpful. Could I manage 10pm to 3am one weekend, then 3am to 7am some other time? By comparison, making the 50 minute journey to the South Bank early one morning to manage a 7am-9am shift should be easy enough. Or could I manage a full all-nighter? Time will tell.

In 2016, in this post, I explained the derivation of the phrase “This is where we came in”, from the days when people went to the cinema without paying too much attention to the start and end times of the movies. It’s a phrase that I will probably repeat many times in the months ahead in my attempt to view all 24 hours of this “mesmerising masterpiece of contemporary art”. I do not expect to fit in the 1,440 minutes of screen-time in strict chronological order. Every time I’m watching a set of clips that I have already seen, the words “This is where we came in” will no doubt cross my mind. This could well be true for thousands of other viewers who drop in between now and next January to the room on the second floor of the Blavatnik Building where “The Clock” is showing. It’s very comfortable in there: scores of three-seater sofas arranged with plenty of space between each one. On yesterday’s evidence they are mostly occupied by one person or two but there is room for three on each one. If each chunk of viewing time were limited to 45 minutes it would require 32 visits to see the entire piece. The person sat next to me yesterday evening, who left around 5.40pm, did something I do not expect to do: they checked their watch before standing up.

If you’re anywhere near London in the next few months drop in and take a look. Entry is free. Food and drink are not allowed in the viewing room (no popcorn concessions, as you’d expect). I plan to record my progress below, which segments I have seen and when, beginning with yesterday’s 45 minutes’ worth. I feel that I should be there right now, catching the hour or two after 10am, rather than typing these words at home on a Saturday morning. Happy viewing.

Date Segment
Fri 14-Sep-2018 17.25-18.10
Fri 21-Sep-2018 11.25-13.15
Sat 6-Oct-2018 Failed attempt to see part of the all-night screening, after 10pm
Mon 22-Oct-2018 10.03-11.30
Sat 3-Nov-2018 Another failed attempt to see part of the all-night screening, after 10pm





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