Christian Marclay's acclaimed video The Clock was on view at New York's Paula Cooper Gallery from January 21 through February 19. Please note that this is not a review of the video. Occasionally works of art inspire me to write theoretical fiction, or what I call theoriction, a between-genre play of ideas that holds no loyalty to conventional notions of truth or storytelling except to generate critical ideas about its subject. This is my theoriction on Christian Marclay's The Clock set within the historical context of the artists, philosophers, and scientists who inform the many ideas circulating in his structural clockwork. It is in essence The Clock put on trial by a jury of Marclay's intellectual and artistic forebears.
The Scene: An assembly of the Tribunal of Time, somewhere between times.
Heraclitus: The Tribunal is convened in response to the recent stir caused by a certain video concerning Time known only as The Clock by the artist Christian Marclay. Ladies and Gentlemen of the Tribunal, those of you who've seen it know that The Clock is no ordinary single channel video. It's a 24-hour production spliced together from several thousand excerpted scenes from feature films originated by authors and artists other than Marclay. The video is comprised entirely of people seen looking at, conditioned by, and responding to clocks, and clock-like social signifiers conjoined in a way most evocative ... and provocative ... of the cultural and metaphysical enigmas of Time. I say provocative because for all his remarkable industry, Christian Marclay has chosen to represent Time with the signage of PARODY!
(There is an outburst of mixed reactions from the gallery.)
Heraclitus: Quiet please. Yes, I said parody. Which is why certain esteemed members of the Tribunal have sought to reprove Christian Marclay for his "pranks," while other members see fit to induct him into the Tribunal itself!
(There is another outburst of confusion in the gallery.)
Heraclitus: I hereby appoint two of you among us who have expressed desire to speak on Marclay's behalf before the Tribunal: Mademoiselle Gertrude Stein and Monsieur Voltaire, who the Tribunal has amply witnessed both as having the sufficient acumen for Time and Art to speak before this assembly. One of you wishes to speak in support of artist Marclay and one in his derision. Which is it?
Gertrude Stein: I, on Marclay's behalf, your honor.
Voltaire: And I, in his derision.
Heraclitus: Speak then, first, prosecutor Voltaire.
Voltaire: Assembled Tribunal, critics, philosophers, artists and composers of Time ... We who have proven ourselves possessed of Time's favors know the surest and simplest way to slow time is to think about, dwell on, obsess over time itself. Surely this Christian Marclay is aware that compelling his audience to think about the passage of Time for hours on end is the surest path to inflicting psychological agony on them.
Hearclitus: Counsel Stein.
Gertrude Stein: Your honor, members of the Tribunal. I ask you: Why would Christian Marclay, one of today's most culturally astute artists, make a 24-hour video on Time for the purpose of torturing innocent viewers?
Voltaire: I object, your honor. Audiences are hardly innocent in their viewing.
Gertrude Stein: One could as easily accuse you of artistic malice, Monsieur Voltaire. You who aimed your ridicule at all civilization for its vanities and superstition in that most remarkable of parodies, Candide. Why, in your now venerable role as guardian of culture, should you reproach an artist for similarly dispersing his own wit upon a civilization bent on constraining Time to the role of a metronome beating out the regimentation of society? To a culture devoted to buying up the lifetimes of the world's billions of souls in a mercenary bid by the few to live their time in leisure and privilege.
(The are mummers from the gallery.)
Voltaire: You forget, Mademoiselle Stein, that I had the good sense to keep the enigma of Time wrapped in the obscurity befitting it. But your defendant, Monsieur Marclay, has exposed the very skeleton of Time before the eyes of the living. Doesn't your Marclay know that humans recoil from the signs conveying even the smallest increments of time's passage? Can't you see he's undressing their dread of the mortality that all too soon will consign them?
Gertrude Stein: Pas du tout, Monsieur. It is because Marclay does know of the pain time inflicts that he wishers to make light of such agony, so to accustom his audience ... no ... so to facilitate his audience with a surer and more rounded passage into the eternal manifold that Time has habituated for them. And as for the...
Heraclitus: Mademoiselle Stein. If you please. None of the long-winded soliloquies for which you're well known will I tolerate before this Tribunal. Do you or don't you think this Marclay supplies even sufficiently engaging artistry and reason for exposing the structure of Time in The Clock? Or is he but exacting masochism from his audience in the kind of endurance rite that we all agree should be invested only in the most enlightening works of art? Those that reward the stringent demands and tests of such endurance as sitting for 24 hours straight gazing at a screen of human flux and mayhem with the prize of epiphany?
Albert Einstein: Please, honorable Heraclitus, if I may interrupt. Are you suggesting that we on this Tribunal should favor tests of endurance inherited from religious rites of submission to gods as criteria for great art?
Heraclitus: Careful, Albert. I was worshipped as a god briefly. What of it?
Albert Einstein: I ask only, honorable Heraclitus, whether such endurance tests as sitting through 24 hours of film excerpts shouldn't be regarded as barbaric, when the true test of the art should be in the significance of the epiphanies it supplies.
Immanuel Kant: Herr Einstein, aren't you presuming there is epiphany to be found in Marclay's art? And if so, is that only because The Clock demands that viewers submerge themselves in a structurally collective consciousness for so long? Isn't that little more than a vain wish from a work of parody? Even worse, from a work of appropriation?
Albert Einstein: If I'm wishing there is epiphany in The Clock, Herr Kant, it's because I've been conditioned to wish for it from the likes of similarly demanding works of art: Of our dear Marcel's Remembrance of Things Past and our beloved Jim's Ulysees, as well as Virginia's The Waves, and Gertrude's own Tender Buttons.
Gertrude Stein: Need I remind the Tribunal that the greatest of epiphanic masterworks as the Mahabarata and the Illiad were not in short supply of sadomasochistic demands to evince their epiphanies? And that their epiphanies are embedded deep within their structures? Or since modernity is our subject, did not Vertov's Man With A Movie Camera, Eisenstein's Ivan the Terrible, Tarkovsky's Andrei Rublev, Antonioni's The Passenger, Hollis Frampton's Zorn's Lemma, Andy Warhol's Empire State Buiding, and Alain Robbe-Grillet and Alain Resnais's Last Year at Marienbad not also suffer the vitriol of critics because their epiphanies were not shortly forthcoming?
(The Tribunal takes note that Mr. Vertov, Mr. Eisenstein, Mr. Tarkovsky, Mr. Antonioni, Mr. Frampton, Mr. Warhol, and Mr. Robbe-Grillet all nod the way of Mlle. Stein.)
Gertrude Stein: If anything, the kind of epic artistic production demanding our sustained attention and sacrifice of pleasure in the real world--including requiring the kind of sleep deprivation attendant to zen meditation--really doesn't concern us here. Neither Marclay nor his promoters have mentioned, let alone promised, epiphany anywhere in their press. None of which means there is or isn't some epiphany to be had, only that...
Voltaire: Your honor, Mlle. Stein and Mr. Einstein are belaboring a minor consideration of the Tribunal. Isn't the greater scandal that concerning such a magnum opus as The Clock inevitably takes on the Tribunal's own critical philosophy and science of Time for it's own vain self-promotion? And shouldn't the judgment be whether or not Marclay is up to the task? I for one wish to call forth some of the witnesses from the Tribunal itself, those who have defined Time for their respective populaces, yet have sat through this parody of a film.
Heraclitus: I agree. Call your first witness, then Mlle. Stein.
Gertrude Stein: Your honor, I call the once Queen of Araby and Persia, her majesty Scheherazade.
(There are murmurs from the gallery.)
Heraclitus: An auspicious start to your defense, Mlle. Stein. To call on one of our most esteemed experts in prolonging not only Time, but her very life with her art of narration. Queen Scheherazade, you are called to the defense of the artist Christian Marclay.
Scheherazade: I am, your honor. And I wish to do so with what I do best: presenting a simple account of one hour of what I saw and heard of The Clock. I think upon hearing it, all will agree the film should suffice as much as a tribute to Time as to a parody of it.
Scheherazade: The film is assuredly possessed of a certain erotic appeal. I have selected the measure at which one would expect the least action, the hour between 5 and 6 AM. I was most pleasantly surprised when I found I sat among an exceedingly yet pleasingly indolent audience, many of whom were asleep, but among the waking were ample couples, entwined as couples are want to be, arrayed across the most comfortable lounges and on the lushly carpeted floor of the Paula Cooper Gallery. On screen there were construed a great many dreams of the actors feigning sleep. The continuum from the screen to the premises of the screening was gratuitous even if the scenes were selected and edited with all manner of seductions in mind. As for the unwinding dreams, they were extracted from several dozen Hollywood and World narrative films, more bad than good. One scene was set in hell. Several people were seen falling, falling. A few flew over cities. Anyone depicted awake was either drunk or in trouble. They were largely but not always equipped with watches, clocks, even a metronome. There were emergency rooms, doctors: "I'm sorry I did everything I could. She died at 5:13 AM" "He's paralyzed." "It's too soon to tell..." A lot of phone calls. "Do you know it's 5:00 in the morning?" "It's 5:05 in the morning!" "It's 5:12 in the morning, damn you! Let me sleep!" And then, phones ringing. "Hello" Who's calling at 5:30 in the morning?" "You don't know me but I know you." "Who are you?" Heavy breathing. Shadows across windows. Screams. Running from rooms, from houses. There were some strident awakenings: "C'mon, get up. We've got work to do." Surprisingly there were no couples interrupted by spouses. (That must be all before midnight.) But one, "You have to get up before my husband gets home." Or those awake watching those asleep. A lot of leering ... mostly at young girls. A few people awoke in surprise, horror, at who was asleep next to them. It seemed there were more world films at this hour. Middle Eastern melodies, Indian ragas accompanying the sun rising behind mosques, temples. Several Parisian scenes of cafes being scrubbed down. Aerial views of street washers traversing streets, circling monuments with trailing, glistening water. Then the entire hour between 6 and 7 AM became one grand "Groundhog's Day," only with different actors, including Bill Murray, turning off, smashing, throwing clocks at walls. The hour is dense with signage of desire, mostly thwarted, but on occasion rewards are bestowed.
Heraclitus: Thank you, your highness. I think the Tribunal has eminent sense of The Clock thanks to your narration. Your witness, Monsieur Voltaire.
Voltaire: I call Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Herr Mozart. Tell us what you thought of The Clock upon your viewing.
Wolfgang A. Mozart: I should admit that unlike the critics who have heaped praise on The Clock, I'm not yet completely won over by the film's achievements. That's not because I don't recognize its merits. Part of the problem is that I happen to regard Marclay's earlier opus, Video Quartet, to be one of the finest temporal-visual works of art produced in the last half of the 20th century. Unfortunately, The Clock is not only the opposite in structure and rhythm of Video Quartet, it requires considerable more diligence and patience to succor its virtues. As in The Clock, Quartet is comprised of scenes gleaned from a myriad of narrative films, only these feature musicians performing. The difference is that four channels simultaneously illuminate scenes from four different video and audio montages, all of which for the most part compose a serious, if often dissident, procession of instruments and instrumentalists sounding out fugues and counterpoint in compositions that transpose from lilting diminuendos to crashing crescendos, with many successive passages of andante, allegro, adagio and andante again, in as many keys and chords at once, and in all manner of rock, jazz, classical, pop, techno, even marching bands all shuffled improvisationally throughout. Most startlingly, all played out within an exhilarating 14 minutes. By contrast, it took me three sittings of two-to-three hours each to learn that The Clock has it own movements and variations on themes, rhythms, crescendos and diminuendos distributed throughout it, and all following the human activities that constrain a given day by a myriad of clocks all presiding over by Marclay's rigorous, if sometimes lenient 24-hour measure.
One of the most dramatic is the passage after the tedium of watching a seemingly endless succession of people awaking and being woken between 6:00 and 6:55 AM, when a swelling dissonance counters the diminishing length of scenes all of which effects an increase in the acceleration and number of scenes as they culminate at 7:00 AM into one great crescendo of alarm clocks and rising suns announcing the beginning of a day. A more dynamic climax begins to sound itself around 11:30 AM, when the presiding pianissimo grows steadily louder and by 11:45 accelerates as the scenes grow shorter and more numerous. The volume steadily climbs and the tension within each scene, and cumulatively of the scenes as a whole, corresponds with the desperation of the characters we watch, however briefly, striving in their race against Time. Some are terrified, others pumped with adrenaline, most too obsessed with their mission, test, or desire to notice their own spectacle, some involving life or death circumstances, until a quick succession of ticking clocks, with second-hands nearing 12 noon, become the only scenes in the montage until an eruption of bells from towers and steeples draw upward the eyes of all within earshot to the culmination of the morning signified by the conjunction of the clock's three hands pointing heavenward. Subito (suddenly) the dynamic relaxes, and the scenes grow longer again, people are seen taking breaths, then breathing easier, at least those who remain alive or have succeeded in their noontime quest. In summation, I am not yet sure The Clock is the equal of Video Quartet. But that is perhaps because The Clock trades off more perceptible musical composition for a nuanced and culturally regimented (almost subliminal) dynamic of involuntary responses to sights and sounds.
John Dewey: Your honor, may I offer a counter opinion to Herr Mozart's? (After Heraclitus nods his consent.) From the outset of the film, I see Marclay conveying the necessary predicament in analyzing Time: that Time is understood in two distinct ways, both of which can be graphically described on two distinct if perpendicular axes. On one axis, Time ranges from the public to the private experience of the sun, moon, and stars in motion. On the other axis, the more challenging conceptually, Time is known as either the temporary experience or the eternal sum of experience. Clocks and calendars designate and regulate publicly shared experiences of time. But then public time is really more a measurement of Time that we consent to agree on as an experience of Time. Our experience of Time is something to which we can hardly agree because Time's experience is intimate, specific, and subjective. Time really can't be extracted from life experience except by abstraction as a concept--though many theorists dedicated to a linguistic analysis of thought and experience regard this to be little more than an effect of language. I will add that extracting Time from life annihilates the experience, and quite possibly renders the abstraction of Time a fallacy. To his credit, Mr. Marclay never falls into this trap. The Clock to him may be one big oscillation between the public and the private, the temporary and the eternal, but he never attempts to extract Time from life. It's one reason why I believe The Clock counts as significant art to the point of approaching universal appeal. If I say approaching rather than arriving upon the universal, it is only because the world cinema selection is insufficient--though I don't mean this as a detraction from what the film is--a meditation on time, narrative, cinema, and the epiphanic experience conduced by art.
Heraclitus: I'm afraid I have to disagree, Mr. Dewey. As the first critical thinker on record to log an analogy for Time, and with one so sublimely poetic as calling all Reality "a river into which we can never step twice," it seems too me that Marclay's The Clock, isn't truly temporal in existence. Yes, onscreen The Clock appears to emulate constant change, but it's really change we can replay on demand. What kind of change is replayed on demand? Is this anything but a simulation of change? Imagine. Implying we can step into the waters of Time anytime we want by replaying a DVD? I ask you. Is this the nature of time? No, Mlle. Stein. Only live performances are streams that can't be entered more than once. I can't see Marclay having much to do with the Time I know and love. But I am willing to hear if there are others among you with more structurally suitable analogies awaiting our Marclay.
Plato: Your honor, I have to respectfully object that your complaint is against all film and video, not just Marclay's. Ladies and Gentlemen of the Tribunal, I'm aware that many of you have long resented me for banishing the poets from the Republic. But do not forget that I in my foresight virtually made the artist of motion pictures masters of eternity. Remember that I wrote of a world that always is, has no becoming, and doesn't change. Yet, I likened Time to a moving image of eternity or an eternal image moving. I ask you, has anyone else offered an analogy of Time that bodes more auspiciously for Marclay and The Clock than I?
Voltaire: Unfortunately, Monsieur Plato, you say little more about this eternally moving image of Time in your overly-vaunted Timaeus than what you now state. Your sustained ambiguity on the subject is the reason why I should rather hear from Guatama Buddha and Aristotle on the matter. Taken together, the Buddha and Aristotle steal the show from such muddled commentators on Time as you, and with respective paradoxes that are without equal in their characterizations of Time, at least until the dawn of modernity.
Aristotle: Yes, it's true that I would review film and video favorably for having structures that come as near as possible to modeling the eternal while also affording glimpses of the temporal selectively. But as a measure of earthly time, The Clock is a negation by my logic. Remember, Ladies and Gentleman of the Tribunal, that I am the author who first decried the past for no longer existing. Just as it was I who denied the future claim to reality for evading human precognition. Without a logical past or a logical future as constructs ... why ... I'm left with no logical evidence by which to verify the reality of the present. I'm thereby forced to assert that what we call the stream of the present cannot logically proceed from what we are forced to admit no longer exists (the past). Neither can the state of objects as they are now logically disappear into nonexistence without a trace (the future). What can I say but that the so-called past and future must be illusions. And thusly, with logic as my proof, the present must also be an illusion for having no present evidence of its coming into being in the past and no sign of what it becomes in the future. So though young Marclay seems to be in agreement with me on the illusion of the past and future, The Clock is nothing if not an affirmation of the view that all remembrances and all anticipations exist in the present. Thereby, with one count for Marclay (in neglecting past and future) and one count against him (in highlighting a perpetual present), by my reasoning, I'm forced to recuse myself of an opinion either in his behalf or in his derision.
(There is much commotion in the gallery in response.)
Guatama Buddha: Your honor, basing my belief in time on the faculty of perception rather than on Aristotle's beloved logic, I am able to infer the opposite of Aristotle: that Time is, quite literally, more than real. Although I, like your honor Heraclitus, hold up Time as a metaphorical river, unlike you, I don't see Time to be exclusively equivalent with change. That's because I hold that everything that is not physically manifest before us here and now--memories, expectations, absences, mental pictures--are unreal. Only what is present and manifest physically to the senses here and now is real. But even that reality is relinquished in nirvana, the state of the mind by which all cravings and afflictions are released through meditation. The Clock, taken in summation as one great index of human desire intersecting time, does point to nirvana as the remedy to all the conflict depicted with its rhythmic montage, and not just because the film operates on the level of a great meditation on civilization. The present is eternal in nirvana, as it is in possession and available in The Clock's manifestation as a DVD.
(There is loud applause from the gallery.)
Gertrude Stein: Your honor, I wish to now call St. Augustine.
St. Augustine: Your honor, esteemed assembly... When doubters of Time asked me many centuries ago, "Whence dost thou know Time?" I answered with great confidence, "I know Time, because we measure time; nor can we measure things that are not; and things past and future are not." It's an assertion that rings a clarion note through the millennia to follow without challenge. Yes, we can measure time present, and because measurement is a practical art applied to real things in the world, the present must be real and of the world, not of the mind. In reality it shouldn't be said that "there are three times: past, present and future," but rather that "there are three times: a present of things past, a present of things present, and a present of things future." In his obsession with the framing of Time, Marclay is in fact counting out--measuring--the present tense of Time. It is what video and film by their nature depict--and only depict: the present of things past, the present of things present, and the present of things future. Add to this the frame of the screen; for the screen is the standard by which we measure screen time, which is no more than increments of the present. In bringing all this to bare in our judgment of Marclay as a guardian of Time's interests, I do see an illumination in The Clock of the signage privileging the present while consigning significations of the past and future tenses of film and video to the playback and playforward buttons of video. It is my opinion that The Clock resoundedly affirms the verbiage and signage that renders all time to be of the present tense. I am therefore to be counted as in complete accord with not just Marclay and The Clock but with all video.
Voltaire: Ibn Sinna, you who've been called Avicenna in the West, of all the theorists of time, you posses the thesis thought by many commentators to be the most devastating to Augustine's view of time, as it will no doubt prove to be to Marclay's video.
Ibn Sinna: And who is it who says so? In my once and always beloved Persia, I demonstrated that Time exists not in the physical world, but in the mind as a result of our observance of the movement of physical matter. Time is not an essence independent of the measurement of motion and distance. The movement of a shifting shadow of a sundial, or the measure of sand in an hour glass, and most assuredly the hands of the modern clock, even in the digitized succession of numerals: such motions are themselves the defining features of what we mistake for Time. It is widely, if mistakenly thought that clocks divide up and measure equal increments (a minute, an hour) of the apparent motion of the sun around the earth, but in reality clocks only measure the motion of their own moving features--the moving features of clocks! My postulate therefore holds that the mind mistakenly extrapolates the measurement of clock motion not as the clock motion and distance covered in the clock motion that it is, but falsely as a measurement of some essence we call Time apart from it. The 24 hours of Marclay's film for me has no essence being measured; it is merely the measure of its own motion and the distance covered in the motion impressed upon the mind foremost by the sun's relationship to the earth and secondarily by the motions of clocks memorized and anticipated by the mind. Marclay's The Clock, like the clocks whose images it appropriates, therefore gives a false impression to its audience. The measurement of the hands of a clock is just one of many measures of distance defining the points of start and finish. Of all the theories of Time, mine may indeed be the most devasting to Marclay's project. But ONLY if we hold that Marclay is measuring some essence called Time. Personally, and this is based on my study of the film, I believe Marclay is really measuring not Time, but our cultural perceptions surrounding time, making him in correspondence with my theory.
(There is an outburst of astonished applause from the gallery. Many in the gallery greet the pronouncement with a standing ovation.)
Issac Newton: If I might speak? Thank you, Ladies and Gentlemen of the Tribunal. You are all aware that the time that most people on earth recognize today was introduced to them by myself. You are also aware it is my framing of Time that is currently taught early in childhood educations. That is the view of time as an absolute, true, and quantitatively measurable flow of nature without reference to any objects or matter. And, yet, when objects exist in Time they are defined by Time as durations of motion and existence, which we call measures of Time. In this, master Marclay is most assuredly a follower of mine, and in turn assures my approval of The Clock. We can see this in the way that The Clock is entirely structurally dependent on the cultural regimentation of any ordinary day despite the spectacle and artifice that cinematic productions by and large require of the narrative format. Marclay's structuralist semiotics excavate beneath the narrative tropes of the films from which he appropriates to reveal the common and collective behavioral habitation that comes with the earth's rotation. The film doesn't just mimic the smooth flow of the earth's rotation. Since the films from which he derives his scenes are conditioned by the way that people habituate their lives with the rising and setting of the sun every day, so must his film reflect the social structures built on that habituation. This is the repetitive and smooth flow we recognize and define as Classical Time which Marclay has been made conscious of since he was a child in school because of me.
(Although applause breaks out from the gallery, there are also murmurs of discontent sounding throughout the hall.)
Gottftried Leibniz: Your honor, master Newton surely holds title to the classical view of Time, but we all around him know that it is a view of Time that offers no challenge to the thinking person whatsoever. We may at first think that Marclay embodies Newtonian Time by virtue of presenting scenes that appear to flow seamlessly one to the next, but they don't. We only think they do because Newton's model of Time has been so widely and thoroughly integrated within the culture--and that includes the signage that permeates the narrative films that Herr Marclay appropriates--and by which we are all conditioned ... no, by which we are brainwashed into believing that Time is a smooth flow. Careful attention shows that Marclay is aware of the falsity of this view. He interrupts scenes, jumps to other scenes that present an impression of disjunction, disorientation, in short are jarring. There are many moments we become confused. Marclay is decidedly modelling a Time that is not a smooth and continuous current at all.
Heraclitus: And of course you have a better model to offer, Herr Leibniz.
Gottfried Leibniz: You're aware that I do. I profess to know an eternity by which we never die. Not because of some afterlife, spirituality, or other extension of life, but because the life we know is really frozen in Time for eternity. It is only in our consciously animating and moving through the frozen Time stretched out across space that our lives seem to progress from birth to death. Here is a theory that Marclay perfectly embodies in The Clock. When I wrote my thesis some three hundred years ago, I could have been describing Marclay's DVD. Just as in my theory, all the time of one of Marclay's days is thereby lain down in the DV track before it is played and experienced. It's only in its experience that we can know one instant of the DVD at a time perceptually, but we can intellectually know the whole day the way we know Marclay's film upon seeing it in its entirety and symbolizing it with the sign of the DVD. I am now sufficiently supported by technology to state in confidence that all Time is like the DVD. I mean that Time is complete before and after we live to experience that part of it we inhabit, just as our images are embedded in the DV track before the player plays the DVD. Every single life is lived out in eternity, playing over and over like the DVD infinitely on autoreplay, except that all the instants that make up a life play simultaneously for eternity.
Albert Einstein: Ya, ya. I can concur with this, except that I have explained all this in physical terms that are more elegant and concise. We all are as if recorded on a DVD like Marclay's The Clock precisely because at the speed of light all things are effected by the phenomenon of "time dilation." The faster an object travels, the slower its perception of time becomes, such that at the speed of light itself, all Time is slowed to a stop. Ladies and gentlemen, the speed of light is eternity. The mathematicians and physicists of the Tribunal will better understand this as the formula D = √(1-(v²/c²). It is why we live our lives forever and can meet together here.
(Leibniz and Einstein together receive much applause with attendant hoots and whistles.)
Heraclitus: Herr Kant? You look consternated.
Immanuel Kant: Your honor, Ladies and Gentlemen of the Tribunal: You make me wait at the end of this parade of philosophers, when it is I who has been accorded the most honored position in modernity for introducing the truth of continuous structure. Yes it is continuous structure that allows us to categorically state that Time is a pure form of the mind while also a fabric of nature. And as it's so, shouldn't it be I who is accorded the honor of pronouncing judgment on Christian Marclay's The Clock as fully embodying my theory that the structure of the mind, the structure of human perception, and the structure of art are all continuous and in accord with the structure of nature and Time? Yes, it's true. And I can affirm from my viewing of The Clock, that in making structure central to his break down of Time into component increments of filmed scenes and shots that Marclay makes structure the central and constant message conveyed by the signage of each scene and shot. Ultimately, Marclay mirrors the structure of Time eternal in his DVD. Of course, he could do no less, because the structure of Time, the structure of film and video, and the structure of the mind of the artist and the mind of the viewer are all continuous and in accord with one another. It can therefore be said that Marclay could do no more nor no less than maintain this continuity. Which means Marclay himself is not responsible for his achievement, as the structures of time, video, and the mind exist prior to Marclay's understanding and mastery of those structures.
(There is a loud commotion as the gallery seems unsure what this means for both the artist and for them and their achievements.)
Heraclitus: You have something to add, Herr Heidegger?
Martin Heidegger: Your honor, I suggest we consider how Herr Kant's universal and continuous structure can only become meaningful because of the existence of a conscious being that reflexively understands its own being. I speak of course of the consciousness of human beings, that allows them to understand that Time is structural to consciousness because consciousness is itself both temporal and understands it is temporal. Time thereby structures all our relationships, with both those things immediately at hand (which we can point to) and those things that strike us as objectively present in the world--the necessary constituents which may be invisible but upon which all life, society, and culture as we know them are dependent for their being. I must therefore conclude that Marclay's The Clock not only reflects the structural awareness of Time and the mind. Marclay's achievement resides in also recording the structural awareness to the awareness itself. And this is so not because the structure of his awareness is prior to his experience, though it is prior, but because the awareness reproduces the structure of the things in the world of which it is aware. We see this in Marclay's appropriation of scenes and shots from films made prior to his awareness of them. For most of the artists from whom he appropriates do possess awareness of the structure of their art, but they show little awareness of their awareness, as seems to be Marclay's reason for their appropriation. Yet by virtue of his appropriations, Marclay draws attention to his awareness that both the structure of Time and the structure of video are continuous. Hence it is his awareness of both these structures and his awareness of his awareness that makes him responsible for his reflexive art, and thereby fit to be honored by the Tribunal of Time.
(Despite pleasing the gallery, Martin Heidegger receives only muted applause, as Ms. Stein, Mr. Einstein, and other Jews and their sympathizers do not participate in the accolade.)
Heraclitus: John Cage, I don't see your name anywhere on our docket. Yet you raise your hand.
John Cage: I cherish the element of surprise, Heraclitus.
Heraclitus: Speak your mind.
John Cage: I wish to motion that we adjourn this session of the Tribunal without conducting a vote on the merits of The Clock.
(There is much commotion among the astonished members of the gallery.)
Heraclitus: And why should we not conclude the matter now, once and for all, Mr. Cage?
John Cage: For no other reason than that we have all the Time in the world at our disposal.
(Again there is much commotion in the gallery.)
Heraclitus: Pray tell us how this applies to Marclay and The Clock.
John Cage: I wish to point out that none of us here have taken the time to experience The Clock in its entirety, that is, in one consecutive 24-hour viewing, without sleep.
(The commotion in the gallery grows more agitated.)
Heraclitus: Mr. Cage...
John Cage: Please, I'm clumsy with explanations. Allow me to defer to Daio Kokushi, the great Zen Master who knows so much more than I on what sleep deprivation can bring to our experience of Time.
Heraclitus: We are much aware of Daio. But what is it you can tell us?
Daio Kokushi: Your honor, Ladies and Gentlemen of the Tribunal: How else are we able to consider that in taking our obsession with Time's passage to compulsory extremes, Christian Marclay's meditations lift us out of our agonized and agonizing states to the degree that The Clock becomes liberating, even transcendental, to its most intrepid and devoted viewers--those who experience the film for it's entire 24-hour duration without sleep. Until then, I suggest that your honor adjourn this Tribunal without a decision until everyone here has experienced the entire film in one viewing. It is the only way we can better inform ourselves as to whether or not The Clock facilitates or obstructs an epiphany on Time as intended by the artist.
Heraclitus: And how will depriving ourselves of sleep to watch only what we've watched for hours already be so decisive a factor in our estimation of The Clock or of Time?
Daio Kokushi: I will speak in plain and scientific terms, since that is what I perceive most here best understand. It is sleep deprivation that activates a part of our brains that is not otherwise active during waking. But first we must struggle with staying awake. The novice of Zen will invariably nod off in the course of meditation, then when his body begins to fall forward, he will stop and jolt upward, a motion that wakes the novice up. This sudden awakening causes the brain to shift into a temporarily activated state that enables us to experience the passage of Time in a very unique way. This is why the Zen master practices sleep-deprivation religiously, so that the altered states of awareness otherwise unavailable to us manifest themselves and be temporarily sustained. Imagine seeing Mr. Marclay's video in such a heightened state of consciousness allowing us approach to a fuller awareness of Time's reality. It's a method of attaining new awareness not unlike fasting. In fact, fasting may also be advised before and during our experiencing of The Clock to further heighten the seemingly foreign yet truly-intimate experience of Time.
(There is much discussion in the gallery.)
Heraclitus: Fascinating. But... Ladies and Gentlemen of the Tribunal, Daio Kokushi's counsel strikes me as wise, if impractical. I myself have never endeavored a full 24-hour cycle without sleep. Perhaps some of us have been premature in offering Christian Marclay our resistance to his film. But I am also inclined to think the same of you who in your premature enthusiasm wish us to grant Christian Marclay apotheosis into the Tribunal of Time. It is my humble opinion as your representative and legate that the Tribunal will hereby adjourn its proceeding until more thorough opinion on The Clock's functions as parody and epiphany are better understood.
Daio Kokushi: Ah ... May I suggest that we also consider that it may be the case that parody and epiphany can at times be one and the same?
(The commotion in the gallery grows into a roar. Heraclitus is visibly embarrassed.)
Heraclitus: Silence. By all appearances there is much more here to be digested than most of us assumed. Until the next assembly of the Tribunal, then, we are adjourned. And do not come back without experience of a full 24-hour viewing.
Read other posts by G. Roger Denson on Huffington Post in the archive.
Level up. Read THIS and be the most interesting person at your dinner party. Learn more