Darling of the art world, Christian Marclay’s The Clock, like so many pieces of conceptual art, was for me as giving in the reading and anticipatory thinking about it as it was in experiencing it.

Now granted, the 24-hour film had a lot of buzz surrounding it, generated first in NY and then here in LA. So, I went primed for the viewing itself to reveal exciting thoughts and feelings about time and cinema: a kind of dance between form and affect, structure and concept, that I have often enjoyed via structuralist and other avant-garde films that are committed to practices and theories of duration.

But as was true of my experience of 127 hours, this contemporary time-project also delivered, instead, a meditation on time compression, cutting so frantically and gimmicky that one couldn’t catch a breath to think or ponder, or just be alive and aware in (movie) time. While that just may be the point–in our ADD, multi-tasking, world of cut-up screens we seek to ever fly away from boredom and contemplation–I got that point in just a few minutes. So why 24 hours?

Sure, the film was impressive as an indexing project, what Lev Manovich has called database cinema. And this was especially apparent to me, given that I was watching it with my friend, Carina, an early-modern historian, frantically trying to complete the index for her codex. But the cutsey cutting–montages of running in the rain, L-cuts carrying sound from one scene into the next, shot-reverse across time (thanks Maya Deren)–are pretty much Editing 101. Which leads me to the larger (and perhaps more controversial) reflection upon the growing craze for video and cinema in the art world. While I’m glad it’s there, there has been over a hundred years of production, teaching, and criticism about this medium, needless to say, much of it amazingly remarkable and astute, that hasn’t seemed to have moved as readily into the moving image’s new and fancy palaces. Not to say that avant-garde cinema and video haven’t had a precarious place in the art world since it’s birth, but the reception of present-day meditations on and celebrations of editing would be well framed by the huge body and long history of well-thunk missives on this very topic: itself a time project worthy of deep contemplation and careful consideration.


Duration is a hallmark of experimental media practices. While always boring, to some extent, great duration works depend upon a profound mirroring of technique and ontology to allow us to ruminate on definitive questions of both cinema and existence: desire and boredom, what lasts and what we will wait for.

Don’t get me wrong, I really liked Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours, this post merely considers how he quite masterfully turned an avant-garde concern with duration into a post-modern festival of acceleration. With an impressive array of artful cinematic tricks, varied and purposeful, from the craft departments of screenwriting, color, lighting, sound design, music, camera movement, close-up, performance, and mise-en-scene, Boyle keeps his film a-movin’ with nary a second left over to experience what duration usually delivers: that the viewer is induced to hallucinations, reveries on the nature of love, sex, family, and time, and the desire to slit one’s own wrist (or arm) from an unaccountably vehement anger at that which moves too slow in a form that usually delivers.

True to our ADD culture, Boyle lets us longingly look at someone else’s duration troubles as a new form of heightened narrative voyeuristic pleasure rather than trusting us to be strong enough, patient enough, smart enough, or man enough to handle waiting on our own.