Christian Marclay’s The Clock

The Clock

It can be a struggle sometimes to get to see our three boys. Between housesitting and travelling we have to carefully plan days several months in advance when we can get to see them all. After our Dutch and Norwegian adventures we had scheduled a week to catch up with them and I took the opportunity to request, or maybe even demand, that we spent the day in London.

Love it or Hate it?

London seems to generate extreme emotions in a lot of people, it’s very ‘marmite’ isn’t it? You either really love it or absolutely can’t stand it. I suppose that commuting every day probably pushes you into the hate it category which is completely understandable but have to say that we love London. The occasional day trip and tour around the sights is fabulous and even moderately exciting.

A few years ago I read an article about the artist Christian Marclay and his new piece of visual art called ‘The Clock‘. It sounded so interesting and completely up my street so Jo and I headed off to catch it on the South Bank. Ever since then I’ve wanted to see it again so when I found it was being shown at the Tate Modern I sort of demanded that we go.

London’s South Bank

So accompanied by Sam and Tabitha and Ryan we headed for Westminster tube station and decided to walk down the South Bank to the Tate Modern. I love that side of the river as there is so much going on. It’s busy and touristy of course but that’s what makes it so interesting and enjoyable. There are food and drink stalls everywhere along with bars and shops and of course the London Eye and other attractions designed to relieve the tourist of his hard-earned cash.

South bank London

After a sneaky mulled wine we dived into the pop-up food market and traipsed around checking out every single food stall from all over the world. What would it be? Indian? Caribbean? Spanish? So much choice and so little time! Eventually Sam, Ryan and me went for a Duck Burger and the girls went for a curry each. Delicious. In fact so delicious that we could easily have done it all over again.

South Bank London

Onto the Tate Modern then where I planned to make everyone sit for half an hour watching some of ‘The Clock‘. Wonder what they would all think as it is a little different.

Christian Marclay’s ‘The Clock’

So what is The Clock. Well the official description says it’s a looped 24 hour art installation video montage featuring clocks and timepieces. Make sense? My description would be that it is a collection of famous, and not so famous, film clips edited together to make a film that runs all day and all night where every single clip shows a watch or a clock. The 24 hour film also runs in synch with the actual time so when you see someone on screen check their watch at 11.15 it really is eleven fifteen.

It features around 12,000 different clips from almost every film you could ever imagine edited into a single continuous film. It may sound a bit haphazard but the end-result really works and Marclay has created themes and mini-stories throughout the film. And don’t forget that every single clip includes a reference to the time whether it’s a clock, a watch, sundial, digital display, a character saying the time, or a whole host of other ways.

When the film was completed in 2010 only 5 copies were made for public display and these were sold to various museums around the world such as the New York Museum of Modern Art, the National Gallery of Canada, the Pompidou Centre in Paris, the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, and of course the Tate Modern in London.

The Tate Modern

The Tate Modern is the UKs national gallery of international art and British art from 1900. Built from the old Bankside Power Station it holds all manner of modern art exhibitions and the impressive main Turbine Hall is always worth a visit. We’ve been so many times over the years to see giant spiders, huge cracks in the floor, and bizarre video projected on the walls. The Clock wasn’t in the main hall however it was up on the first floor.

With limited seats to view the film I was a little concerned that we might have to queue which could easily deflate my fellow viewees and put them right off the whole experience. Luckily we rocked up at exactly the right time and strolled in.

The Clock

When Christian Marclay sold those five copies of The Clock he added a set of restrictions including the express rule that the film can only be screened in one place at any one time. If it’s being shown in London then nowhere else is allowed to run it. This makes each viewing unique worldwide. Also, a little bizarrely perhaps, every place that screens it has to do so with only Ikea white sofas for the audience to sit on. So every screening all over the world is identical.

Finally and most importantly, when the museum starts showing the film it is not allowed to stop running it until the whole run is over. So the Tate switched on The Clock back in September and it runs continuously 24 hours a day until January 20th 2019. Even though the place is closed every night the film has to continue running to keep in synch with the actual time. Cool huh?

The Clock

So we found our sofas right in the middle and settled down for a quick 20 minutes. I was worried they might all get a bit bored to be honest. Just because I find something fascinating doesn’t mean that everyone else feels the same way. Well. An hour later we were still all transfixed and a further hour later we were still there!

It truly is an incredible piece with clever little themes running through it and groups of unrelated clips appearing to tell their own stories. You find yourself drawn into the clips looking for times and clocks and transfixed by the sheer number of different films included. We eventually left after a couple of hours but I think we could easily have stayed for another few hours with some food and drink supplies. In fact I’m sure Sam, Ryan and I could do the full 24 hours.

The film is being shown until January 20th and has a couple of all night sessions at the beginning of December.

Is this a review?

No it isn’t and I’m not sure anyone could really review this piece as i think it has to be experienced to get the right effect. We all loved our afternoon there though and I will definitely be keeping my eyes open in a few years time for when it returns to London because it certainly will be back. If you get the chance to see even half an hour of it then I would recommend you to go as it’s mind-blowingly fascinating. One of the best things I have ever seen.

A mesmerising masterpiece of contemporary art.



  1. Hey Jonno, Welcome to London! Another excellent post thank you! I love Tate modern, but I haven’t been this year. I didn’t know about the clock and I will definitely have to go now before January, you made it sound so good. Thanks for the tip!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Since a child have always had a sense of excitement going to London. My husband doesn’t like London so I meet a friend there 2/3 times a year. We tend not to do the normal landmarks but have planned to walk the canal in Feb

    Liked by 1 person

  3. London’s wealth in art, be it classical or contemporary, makes me want keep coming back again and again. The Clock is one piece that’s up my alley and from your experience, it looks like it’s so engrossing.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. It sounds fascinating, Jonno, and I’d love to see it. Not too much chance this time around but you never know what the future might hold. 🙂 🙂 I smiled at the opening shot because it looks like something you could use on Becky’s time-related, squares challenge. Don’t suppose you’re familiar with it?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. As an ex commuter, I did go through that phase of not wanting to visit London in my leisure time. Now I’m longtime away from the commuters life, I think of London as such an exciting and fun filled city and have such fond memories of sight seeing days, theatre visits and being overwhelmed at the sheer size and history of the city. Although I’ve never heard of Christian Marclay’s “The Clock”, it sounds absolutely fascinating.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Love London whether a commuter or not. There’s so much choice in the City and the Clock a prime example of that. Is it art or a really clever piece of film editing? Either way I can see the appeal.

    Liked by 1 person

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