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“The Clock” by Christian Marclay


Christian Marclay’s famous The Clock (2010) is a 24-hour video that can be discussed as looped in its structure. The video consists of a variety of clips that represent clocks, and the time a viewer can notice in the film is synchronized with the real time. From this perspective, this video installation accentuates the role of time in people’s lives and helps them focus on its presence in their everyday reality. The purpose of this paper is to discuss whether Marclay uses a narrative structure in his work with reference to the examples from The Clock.

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A Narrative Structure of the Artwork

When watching this video-based artwork, it is possible to recognize its specific narrative structure. Marclay assembled numerous clips representing the clocks as a linear narrative, and the impression that all fragments create a single non-stop story is also supported by music. Furthermore, the overall message and effect produced by the combination of clips in one unit provide viewers with an understanding of the depicted story (Chris, 2011). For example, the unit of clips related to representing the time between 10:20 and 10:25 creates a unique story with people waiting for something and the feeling of suspense. Thus, suspense is connected with anxiety that is characteristic for all individuals presented in these fragments. The man from one clip says “Hello” to the woman from another episode, and the other man tries to reach the door that will be opened in the next clip (Beenhere Donethat, 2013). Characters’ words, their suspense, music, and the focus on monitoring time create a particular impression in viewers.

The Meaning of the Artwork

In his artwork, Marclay produced not a combination of many randomly assembled clips for the purpose of depicting clocks in different films. Instead, the artist prepared a 24-hour story based on the feelings of anxiety and suspense associated with the concept of time. Transitions between segments in the film can be viewed as both smooth and leading to unexpected changes in the plot. It is possible to notice how one short story created with the help of different smoothly arranged pieces suddenly turns to be a new story about the next period of time. The author spent much time in order to find and emphasize the logic between numerous clips from different video sources (Out of Sync – Art in Focus, 2017). As a result, the selected narrative structure creates a flow in this work, and the author accentuates its continuity with the help of synchronizing the time on clocks in the film with the time on viewers’ watches.


Having understood the principle of the narrative structure in this artwork, it is possible to perceive it as the representation of thousands of people all over the globe in the same moment of their life. From this perspective, Marclay’s The Clock can be regarded as connected to every viewer’s life in three aspects. Firstly, the artwork is closely connected with a viewer’s reality representing the real time. Secondly, a viewer can feel rather involved in the work when understanding that many clips are familiar for him or her. Thirdly, noticing so many characters united by the time represented on their clock resembles following thousands of people around like it is in a reality television program. One should note that Marclay’s The Clock almost cannot leave people indifferent because of its focus on one of the most valuable sources in their life.


  1. Beenhere Donethat. (2013). Christian Marclay The Clock 10h15 Nuit Blanche théâtre de Chaillot [Video file].
  2. Chris. (2011). Christian Marclay – The Clock [Video file]. Web.
  3. Out of Sync – Art in Focus. (2017). Christian Marclay | On Time discussing The Clock [Video file]. Web.

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StudyCorgi. (2022) '“The Clock” by Christian Marclay'. 6 January.

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