Вы находитесь на странице: 1из 5

Clock Time

ROSALIND E. KRAUSS

Christian Marclay is a holdout against the eclipse of the medium. This requires
that he embed his work in what I elsewhere term a technical support.1 (If traditional art required artisanal supports of various kindscanvas for oil painting, plaster
and wax for bronze casting, light-sensitive emulsion for photographycontemporary
art makes use of technical supportscommercial or industrial productsto which it
then makes recursive reference, in the manner of modernist arts reflex of self-criticism. For Marclay, this technical support is commercial sound film, from which he
has extrapolated that process into pure synchronicity. Earlier, this was to be found in
his focus on synch-sound in the use of mostly Hollywood films for his masterful Video
Quartet (2002).
An anthology of film clips joined top-to-bottom, Video Quartet runs four loops
of clips from commercial sound films on four DVD screens, spaced out along a
wall. Sometimes the synchrony is visual, as circular forms (phonograph turntable,
roulette wheel, trumpet rim) play simultaneously across the visual field. At other
times, Marclay seems intent to contrast sound and silence, a historical divide over
which sound jumped in 1929 to turn movies into talkies. At such points, it is the
very era of silence that Marclay ambitiously wants his viewers to see. How to do this
is not obvious, but one electric moment presents cockroaches spilling onto a
piano keyboard and scurrying over it (soundlessly, of course).
The Clock (2010), Christian Marclays latest work, is also a compilation of film
clipsfragments of commercial films, joined end-to-end. Projected in video on a
wall as a segmented twelve by twenty-one foot image, The Clock selects fragments
in which the dials of wristwatches and large free-standing clocks figure prominently. Doubling this temporal focus, The Clock stretches over twenty-four hours of
audience and projected time.2
Marclay has turned to pure synchronicity as the undeniable support for post1.
See Two Moments from the Post-Medium Condition, October 116 (Spring 2006) and A Voyage
on the North Sea: Art in the Age of the Post-Medium Condition (New York: Thames and Hudson, 1999).
2.
My thanks to Malcolm Turvey for his reading and helpful critiques of this essay.

OCTOBER 136, Spring 2011, pp. 213217. 2011 October Magazine, Ltd. and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

214

OCTOBER

Christian Marclay. Video Quartet. 2002.


Christian Marclay. Courtesy Paula Cooper Gallery, New York.

1929 film and thus for cinema itself. This is easy to see in Video Quartets exercise in
synch sound. In The Clock, we confront what must be called another of the underlying conditions of filmsynch time: which is to say, projection at twenty-four
frames a second, synchronized with the psycho-physiological facts of optics, as the
retinal production of the after-image from one frames visual stimulation slides
invisibly into the next. The illusion of movement overrides the film frames
appearance, creating the visual slippage we call the movies.
This explanation by way of the after-image, called the phi-effect, has
become controversial of late, making the synchronization between projected
frames and the physiological-optics of viewing problematic. Recent research on
the intermittent reperfusion on the brain supports the reality of the phi-effect,
however, even in the relatively smooth unrolling of video.3
The Clocks synch-time joins audience and screen in the manner of what film
3.
Research at the Thoralf M. Sundt Jr. Neurosurgical Research Laboratory, Mayo Clinic, and
Mayo Graduate School of Medicine, Rochester, Minn., 1995.

Clock Time

215

Marclay. The Clock. 2010.


Christian Marclay. Courtesy
Paula Cooper Gallery, New York.

scholars call interpellation, after Althussers Ideological State Apparatuses, as the


subject recognizes himself as the addressee of a command, thus identifying with
the commander, himself; for Laura Mulvey, classical narrative cinema positions
female viewers to identify with the male protagonist. In film, this recognition, or
identification, causes the viewing subject to suffer a passivity that results in her
being woven into the weft of the films movement, as the swiveling camera or
shot/reaction shot editing lifts the viewer imaginatively off her seat to join the sides
of the projected actors. At the very outset of cinematic editing, Vsevold Pudovkin
conserved scarce film stock in the post-revolutionary Soviet Union by interspersing
pre-recorded scenes with cutaways to an actors expressionless face, thereby creating
the illusion of someone acting out pity, horror, anguish. These cutaways perform
another act of interpellation, synchronizing observers in the audience with the temporal unfolding of events in the film.
Marclays The Clock exploits the cutaway as its plot unfolds through the
sights of the dials displayed on clocks and watches, and the reaction shots of horrified characters in the film clips Marclay anthologizes into his own work. It
doesnt take long before members of the audience glance at their watches and
realize that the precise moment displayed on the screen matches the moment registered on their own wrists. Marclays plot gears itself into that of the film clips he
uses, in which characters anticipate a catastrophe that will be unleashed at a certain moment: a bombs explosion, a missiles strike. We recognize Sean Connery,
Charlie Chaplin, Steve McQueen, Gregory Peck, but unlike the temporal arcs that
produce the plots of Dial M for Murder, or Strangers on a Train, the suspense unreeling inside the screen is not synchronized with the suspense unfolding in the viewers real time. In another twist on this, Annette Michelson has characterized
Michael Snows Wavelength as the very distillation of suspense:
And as the camera continues to move steadily forward, building a tension that grows in direct ratio to the reduction of the field, we recognize, with some surprise, those horizons as defining the contours of

216

OCTOBER

Marclay. The Clock. 2010.


Christian Marclay. Courtesy
Paula Cooper Gallery, New York.

narrative, of that narrative form animated by distended temporality,


turning upon cognition, toward revelation. Waiting for an issue, we are
suspended towards resolution.4
Snows resistance to editing, except for several cuts and splices, allows for an
extended zoom to pass through space, ignoring the body that crashes to the
floorthe presumed object of the films suspense. The near continuity of the
cinematic zoom enforces the viewers perception that Wavelength can only continue for the length of a 16mm reel of film, synchronizing the suspense time on
the screen with his own perceptual experience, in his seat.
On all of these fronts, The Clock explores synchronous time, a tour de force in
the invention of a technical support and, consequently, a new medium.
Post-structuralism, in the form of Jacques Derridas Speech and Phenomena, a
critique of Hsserls own critique of structuralism in his Logical Investigations,
focuses on the now effect of Hsserls dismissal of structural linguistics with its
division of subjective experience into consciousness and representational sign. He
quotes Hsserl as saying, consciousness means nothing other than the possibility of the self-presence of the present in the living present, and consequently:
In inward speech I communicate nothing to myself because there is no
need of it. The existence of mental acts does not have to be indicated
because it is immediately present to the subject in the present moment.
Derrida insists on this effect of self-presence, this indivisible now-effect, as
pure fiction, or myth. He writes, It is a spatial or mechanical metaphor, an inherited metaphysical concept.5
The Clocks simultaneity, enacted by the synchronous gearing of reel time into
4.
Annette Michelson, Toward Snow, in The Avant-Garde Film: A Reader of Theory and Criticism,
ed. P. Adams Sitney (New York: Anthology Film Archives, 1987), p. 175.
5.
Jacques Derrida, Speech and Phenomena, trans. Newton Garve (Evanstown: Northwestern
University Press, 1973), p. 62.

Clock Time

217

Marclay. The Clock. 2010.


Christian Marclay. Courtesy
Paula Cooper Gallery, New York.

real time, flirts with Hsserls desire for the self-present instant, the revelation of
self-presence in the now-effect. Derridas critique of the idea of synchrony is
explored as well in The Double Session, where he emphasizes the line in
Mallarms essay Mimique, characterizing the mimes performance as the false
appearance of the present, which Derrida will celebrate as overthrowing the idea of
synchronic self-presence, and consequently of the very specificity of an object-initself.6 It is the strength of those contemporary artists who want to explore the
dimensions of a specific medium, in itself, that they put Derridas strictures behind
them. Marclay manages this by turning to suspense as the extended dilation of the
now effect, transforming the reel time of film into the real time of waiting.

6.
Jacques Derrida, The Double Session, Dissemination, trans. Barbara Johnson (Chicago:
University of Chicago Press, 1981), p. 200.

Оценить