Wednesday, April 03, 2013

SFMOMA Wastes Time With Christian Marclay's "The Clock"

SFMOMA is one hip, trendy, happening place.  It shows off the latest fads among the professional curatorial circuit.  The latest thing to hit the walls at SFMOMA is a 24-hour video installation from Christian Marclay titled "The Clock."  This is twenty-four solid hours of nothing but brief scenes from film and TV that cue off displays of timepieces.  I attended a sneak preview for donors tonight.  I started off with free food and drink, and it was all downhill from there.

There is no narrative structure whatsoever to this piece.  A scene with an actor doing something at 6:30AM would cut to a scene of another actor doing something at 6:30PM, for no reason.  A scene with a digital clock would cut to a scene with a wind-up wristwatch, for no reason.  Cary Grant and Henry Fonda are spliced with Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson, for no reason.  They were forced to act side-by-side completely divorced from the creative context intended by their original writers, directors, and cinematographers.  This happened not because "The Clock" makes aesthetic sense, but because someone could get away with it.  This film exists because an artist and his editing crew thought it would be a neat idea to sift through thousands of hours of classic movies just to find scenes of people looking at clocks and watches.  It really is that simple.

I arrived at about 6:20PM and left before 7:00PM.  That was more than long enough for me to figure out that there was no point to watching any scenes at all.  I regretted staying that long; ten minutes would have been enough but even I have to fight my genetic limitations.  Our species evolved to respond predictably to audio-visual cues that are now well-defined by media practitioners.  Even Yours Truly is not completely immune but I get more resistant with practice.  The well-heeled art patrons who had preceded me into the darkened performance space were sitting in their comfy chairs enraptured with the mosaic of nonsense on the screen.  They are clearly not as highly evolved as I am, despite their extensive experience with private tutors, prep academies, and Ivy League diplomas.  The average YouTube mash-up makes more sense than "The Clock."  It enthralls people who can't overcome whatever dependency on intermittent reinforcement gets them through the day.  There's even a crowdsource effort afoot to reference every clip in the work.  Our society has invented a whole new level of stupidity if watching twenty-four hours of chronological movements spawns a mass effort to catalog the interstices.

Christian Marclay is a genius but not for "The Clock" or any other particular work of art.  He is a genius because he has figured out that the secret to success as an artist is to conceive of works that are so obscure that they defy evaluation.  This ensures they get foundation grant money and museum sponsorship.  Museums are paying about half a million dollars each for single copies of this testament to mass hypnosis.  I think this thing would be wildly profitable if it played online on its own website with advertising banners embedded on the page.  The emperor often has no clothes in modern art but refusing to notice is a lucrative career for many poseurs.

I sat through just over half an hour of this video installation tonight.  It was a waste of my time.  Some artists have too much time on their hands.  I checked my watch several times and eventually figured it was time to go.  I really needed a time-out.  I don't have time for this stuff.  Will I return to SFMOMA some other time?  Only time will tell.  Go see some real art if you want to have a good time.