There were darker resonances, too. People went to the movies to lose track of time; this video would pound viewers with an awareness of how long they’d been languishing in the dark. It would evoke the laziest of modern pleasures—channel surfing—except that the time wasted would be painfully underlined.
He would not be creating the first film with a running time of precisely one day. That distinction went to 24 Hour Psycho, a 1993 work, by Douglas Gordon, that stretched Hitchcock’s taut thriller into excruciatingly portentous art. And Andy Warhol, in his 1964 film “Empire”—eight hours of stationary footage of the Empire State Building fading into darkness—had created a work whose point was to make viewers “see time go by.” There was a lineage of avant-garde cinema that, with varying degrees of obscurity, examined the temporal qualities of film. Marclay’s contribution to the cinema of duration, though, would be pleasurable to watch. He sensed a creepy challenge. If his film was sufficiently seductive, he might coax people to sit for hours, literally watching their lives tick away.
Christian Marclay’s The Clock is also something I’d quite like to see. It sometimes feels strange to me, wanting to see movies even though I probably won’t see them. The Clock draws me particularly because it’s about the artifice of cinema, the way it gets into Picasso-style lies-that-tell-truths—a subject that’s grown on me over the years. Maybe I am okay with movies and I just dislike theatres? At any rate it might be time to reconsider my stance that video is just not a good match for me. I am not particularly sad to be wrong: people exceeding expectations is a cause for celebration.
As a side note, the New Yorker seems to be a big fan of The Clock: there’s also “Night shift with The Clock” and “Is The Clock worth the time?” which are both decent (and much shorter) reads, as well as Kottke’s roundup of bootlegged clips from the movie, which for obvious reasons is shown as an installation and not available for purchase.