Late last night, we decided to visit Christian Marclay’s 24-hour art installation The Clock at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. It was a kind of insomnia, a filmic one, reminding us we were awake when most others weren’t.
The piece chronicles moments in film in a full 24-hour loop, focusing on a specific time, thus operating as a virtual clock. We arrived at 10:45pm and expected to watch shortly thereafter until 2:00am or so; however we were told that it would be a three-hour wait. Unbelieving, we went ahead and were oddly heartened when we found the wait was to be only 2 1/2 hours. We moved slowly, very slowly and envied those in front of us who had planned ahead; they had magazines and books.We mused, checked our messages – there were none – took turns going to the bathroom, thrilled at the incremental steps and stared at the slowly looming sign.We finally arrived, yes, three hours later at 1:45am. We were sleepy as soon as we sat but the film was good. More than that. It was exhilarating. We were in a cinematic world at an alluring hour…trapped in the frame with lovers, drunks and confusion.
A woman beside us kept turning on her phone, and I had had enough. I leaned over, “Please stop playing with your phone.” She glared back. “I’m not playing. I’m texting my son.” What was she thinking? She was missing it! These were the witching hours of celluloid, the time of transition, from darkest night, lost in thought, to the realization of the approaching day. This was the time of winding clocks, standing naked by the window and watching emus walk through the bedroom.
The man beside me, a vague mix between Andy Warhol and John Cale in pale sunglasses and what looked like a tea cosy draped on his head, was fully reclined and began to snore; it was 4:00am. We considered staying longer – until 5:00am and beyond – but thought it better to come back another time, whenever the event may be staged again. We would just have to go to bed early and have Marclay’s film as our virtual alarm clock for another day.