At LACMA, Christian Marclay’s ‘The Clock’ is a 24-hour movie mash-up


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Artist Christian Marclay’s ‘The Clock,’ which was screened beginning at 11 a.m. Monday at LACMA, gives new meaning to the phrase ‘real time’ -- or is it ‘reel time?’

Actually, it’s both. The 24-hour cinematic montage comprises thousands of film and television clips, sampled from all genres, cultures and historical eras, that depict or allude to the passing of time. Some clips are only a few frames, while others last much longer. Through seamless editing, conversations, visual motifs and themes flow together as one clip segues into another.


Sometimes time is glimpsed incidentally, for instance when a character glances at a pocket watch en route to a rendezvous. In other instances, time constitutes an essential plot point, as large and ominous as the sight of Robert Powell dangling desperately from the minute hand on the face of Big Ben in the 1978 version of ‘The 39 Steps.’

Familiar faces of Hollywood stars age, or age in reverse, before our eyes. One second you’re watching Leo DiCaprio win a fateful poker hand, scant minutes before he’s destined to board the Titanic. The next moment you could be seeing Gary Cooper’s anxious eyes as he counts down the tick-tocks toward his fateful gunfight in ‘High Noon.’

The California-born, European-raised Marclay has built his career on mixing and mashing found sound and combining it with sculpture, performance, video and photography. Not coincidentally, he also works as a DJ, manipulating beats and rhythms to construct a hypnotic flow of sound.

The dozens of people who dropped into LACMA’s Bing Theater on Monday morning were immersed in a hypnotic flow of imagery, a kind of cinematic time machine. The inaugural LACMA screening, which is free and open to the public on a first-come, first-served basis, will continue through Monday night and until 11 a.m. Tuesday morning. ‘The Clock’ then will be screened during regular museum hours in LACMA’s Art of the Americas Building, starting Friday and continuing through July 31.

-- Reed Johnson

Photo Christian Marclay at LACMA for the 24-hour screening of ‘The Clock.’ Credit: Christina House/For The Times