Who knew? The YouTube indie-movie Life in a Day is the freaky feel-good twin of the art-world movie The Clock:

  • they construct dogmatically linear narratives with staccato marches forward to metronome of sun, wave, and cuckoo
  • they piece their homages-to-the-day from found source material
  • compilation films both, they redirect their footage to new “trans-media” screens: from YouTube to art-house, from cineplex to museum
  • triumphs of the database, they impose new logics (of narrative, linearity, causality) through montage
  • false devotees of duration, they foreshorten time’s stickiness with a jittery compulsion for change
  • there were lotsa clock-shots in both

But here the similarities end, for

  • one is built from trash, finding the artful in the prosaic; while the other builds from both competent industry product and great masterpieces alike, re-locating the art squarely to the artist’s hand and mind
  • one is a sappy celebration of humanity and community and commonality; the other, a high-brow parlor game for would-be cineastes
  • one finds narrative pleasure in documentary’s unexpected truth (long takes are only granted for scenes of quirky, revealing, to-the-camera soul-bearing); the other disturbs originary narrative coherence through its showy and artful cornucopia of associational documentary editing techniques (color, movement, weather, feeling)

With so many images and so little time, at last dawns the era of the editor: the wife at the editing bay, not the man with the movie camera.

Elizaveta Svilova, editor of MWMC, as seen in MWMC

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.