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Marclay’s ‘Clock’ Gives Good Time; 1930s World’s Fairs

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Christian Marclay 'The Clock'
A film still from "The Clock" (2010) by Christian Marclay. The 24-hour-long, single-channel video with sound, collaged together from thousands of film and television clips, runs through Jan. 21 at the Museum of Modern Art. Source: Paula Cooper Gallery, New York/Museum of Modern Art via Bloomberg

     Dec. 27 (Bloomberg) -- As we approach high noon -- in real time, and, correspondingly, on the silver screen -- Robert Powell hangs precariously from Big Ben’s minute hand as he tries to stop a time bomb, Leonardo DiCaprio scrambles to board the Titanic, gunslingers face off in the Old West and Joan Fontaine staves off her departure from Monte Carlo in hopes of seeing Laurence Olivier one last time.

Meanwhile, Robert Redford’s wristwatch is stolen at knifepoint and Christopher Walken explains to a young Bruce Willis (played by Chandler Lindauer) that an antique gold watch -- kept safe for seven years in two P.O.W.s’ rectums -- is his birth right.

As noon strikes, hunchback Quasimodo, in an orgiastic fit, rides the tower bells of Notre Dame.

Of course, Gary Cooper makes an appearance.

These are all scenes from Christian Marclay’s 24-hour video montage “The Clock,” (2010) in which thousands of film and television clips have been ingeniously and seamlessly collaged together and fastidiously edited.

For one month, “The Clock,” which won the Golden Lion at the 2011 Venice Biennale and has since entered the Museum of Modern Art’s permanent collection, is being shown at MoMA during public hours.

It is also being screened in its entirety on New Year’s Eve and on three weekends in January.

Pleasure Time

“The Clock” is immensely pleasurable and difficult to exit. There are no time limits for viewers, who can sit comfortably on couches for hours on end.

The actors’ lives play out, minute by minute, second by second, in sync with our own, fusing movie and moviegoer as never before. But the real connection is more intimate.

Through the allure of nostalgia and its rapid-fire pace, “The Clock” constantly challenges us to search our own internal film archives for recognition of actors, plots and directors -- and even to recall how we feel about each film.

Nearly pitch-perfect in rhythm, arc and tone, “The Clock” is a hypnotic marvel. It is a tour de force if not a masterpiece of appropriation art -- the crowning achievement of the genre.

Resting as it does on the backs of film directors, appropriation art is exactly -- and only -- what it is.

“Christian Marclay -- ‘The Clock”’ runs through Jan. 21 at the Museum of Modern Art, 11 W. 53rd St. Information: +1-212-708-9400;

Designing Tomorrow

During the Depression, people yearned for a look at the brighter, streamlined future. There were six World’s Fairs in the 1930s -- in Chicago, San Diego, Dallas, Cleveland, San Francisco and New York.

The public flocked to see technological wonders such as bullet-shaped trains and automobiles, lush Kodachrome film, nylon stockings, tubular-steel furniture and electric toasters, dishwashers and televisions.

Futuristic cities dominated by skyscrapers were conjured up, the continent soon to be interconnected by endless ribbons of highway and wire.

A Westinghouse pavilion wowed with Elektro, a copper-colored robot who smoked cigarettes, answered questions and joked winningly with the crowd.

All of this and more -- presented mostly through archival materials -- is available in “Designing Tomorrow: America’s World’s Fairs of the 1930s.”

It’s a kooky, compact yet immensely enjoyable and informative exhibition at the Museum of the City of New York.

This time-capsule show -- a hopeful, first-rate sales pitch for post-Depression life -- offers a premonitory glimpse of a world we have long since outgrown.

“Designing Tomorrow: America’s World’s Fairs of the 1930s” runs through Mar. 31 at the Museum of the City of New York, 1220 Fifth Ave. Information: +1-212-534-1672;

(Lance Esplund is U.S. art critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)

Muse highlights include Craig Seligman on books and Jason Harper on cars.

To contact the writer on the story: Lance Esplund in New York at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at

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