The Clock (2010): A 24-hour Video In a Museum Context

In this blog, I would like to discuss the assemblage of video work in the context of museum and how it achieves a new type of spectatorship by using a specific instance. First, it is argued that museums in the 21st century have become ‘laboratories of change’, which means a large scale of audiovisual devices and installations could be seen in the museum spaces and quite differentiate from screening a film in cinema. (Penz, 2012, p.279). While viewers are seated to use eyes to watch a film in a dark cinema, a museum space encourages visitors to experience it in a haptic way. As Pallasmaa suggests, ‘A film is viewed with the muscles and skin as much as by the eyes’ (2001). By ‘migrating’ a film from a screen space to a real space, the  ‘discursive formation’ between spectators and museums amplifies in three modes: education, exploration, and entertainment & wonderment (Penz, 2012, p.185).


Christian Marclay’s The Clock (2010) is a 24-hour montage video work composed of thousands of ‘representations of time’ from cinema and television history. Since its opening at Tate in London in 2010, this work has been touring to a number of museums and galleries all over the world. It is argued as a ‘philosophical work’ which engages ‘tropes of found-footage film and video’ in a museum context to ‘create a monumental form of digital cinema’ (Russell, 2013, p.163). It is unavailable for viewers to watch the whole work since it is screened in regular museum hours. However, once viewers are seated to watch this video, they will find the time shown on the screen is exactly when they are there. Russell points out that The Clock addresses the visitors as the ‘hypnotised’ and ‘entranced’ ones of ‘narrative fiction’ (2013, p.172). For instance, in a narrative film, a bomb will explode in 30 seconds, but the locker team might act ten minutes to show how they deal with it. By contrast, the work itself functions as a ‘clock’ which engages viewers to revalue the present time and ‘perception of time in cinemas’, challenging the routine spectatorship established by ‘narrative films’ long before. It creates an educational and explorative practice but also full of entertainment. From this case, we could see the possibility of moving images in galleries and museums to create different form of spectatorship through spatial installations.

Written by Bingjie ZHAI (Lee)


Pallasmaa, J., 2001. The Architecture of Image—Existential Space in Cinema, Rakennustieto: Helsinki.

Penz, F., 2012. “Museums as Laboratories of Change: The Case for the Moving Image”. In Dalle Vacche, A. Film, art, new media: museum without walls?, Palgrave Macmillan:, pp.278-300.

Russell, C., 2013. “Cinema as Timepiece: Critical Perspectives on the Clock/Introduction”. Framework, 54(2), pp.162-176.

One thought on “The Clock (2010): A 24-hour Video In a Museum Context

  1. Christian Marclay’s THE CLOCK is a superb example as it allows so many different discussions to take place at once, from cinema relation to time to its changing conditions of exhibition etc. However, The Clock was shown in its entirety in many places, i..e gallery’s were open 24 hours to show the work when they exhibited it, so there is more there for you to explore. There also seems be a little confusion on whether cinema can be haptic or not.
    Overall such good example but seems you could say a little more on it.


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