‘It’s impossible!’ – Christian Marclay and the 24-hour clock made of movie clips

From the clock in High Noon to the watch in Pulp Fiction, the US artist turned thousands of film clips into a 24-hour epic that tells the actual time. As the cult work returns to London, the place of its birth, he relives three years of toil

The idea is brilliantly simple and completely audacious. Entitled The Clock and lasting 24 hours, the world’s most popular piece of concept art is a gigantic collage of film clips – old and new, black-and-white and colour – showing thousands of glimpses of clocks, watches, sundials and snatches of people telling each other the time, all set up to correspond to real time wherever it is shown, right round the clock.

It is a staggering, almost superhuman feat of research that has gained a cult following ever since it was unveiled at the White Cube gallery in London in 2010. The Clock’s easy-to-grasp governing principle coexists with the almost ungraspable fact that its creator, Christian Marclay, really has pulled it off, beguilingly combining the utter randomness of each individual clip with the strict form of his overarching idea, allowing everyone to meditate on time, how we’re obsessed with it, how there’s never enough of it.

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