Žižek, The End of the World, The Clock and some other things at Toronto’s Nuit Blanche

by Margaux Williamson

photo of “Glow in the Park” from Jaclyn Blumas and Robert Cram of Heretical Objects

I saw Christian Marclay’s The Clock this weekend at 5 am. The Clock is a 24 hour video work. It’s made up of thousands of scenes from movies and some television shows. The scenes all contain evidence, like clocks and watches, of the time represented in the specific movies and television shows. That time corresponds to the real time where the work is being screened.

It was playing during Toronto’s all night arts festival Nuit Blanche, an event that takes place between 7 pm and 7 am. Picturing the line-up at The Clock, I hadn’t planned to go. I had seen a few good things earlier in the night. I had thought to go to Slavoj Žižek’s talk in Toronto’s City Hall Council Chambers, but figured it would be too crowded and went home. My fellow blogger Carl was there at City Hall, he was part of the overflow from the Council Chambers that moved up to the roof and, in the cold, listened to Žižek talk about “The End of the World”  through loudspeakers. That might sound even more special than sitting in the audience in the Council Chambers, though I have to say –  arriving home, a few miles down the road but still in the center of festivities, making my way through the moving crowd that included a lot of children and drunk people, to get to my covered-in-tiny-bits-of-smashed-beer-bottles front stoop – to at  that moment, receive a text message about how your fiends are standing on the roof of City Hall listening to Žižek talk about “The End of the World” through loudspeakers might have been the most special.

I had planned, at that point, to go to sleep,  but a rogue DJ was parked on a flatbed truck outside my window. In addition to music, he had a microphone and a lot to say. Hours went by. I watched television shows I had never thought to watch: Gossip Girl, Lost, Wilfred.

When the police on bicycles put an end to the DJ, it was 4:30 Am and I was wide awake. I got on my bicycle and made my way across town to the Power Plant Gallery where The Clock was. It was pretty out, bits of garbage floating around and the highways empty.

When I arrived, there were no line-ups but the couches were all taken, a few with gently snoring people, and others on the floor, leaning against the wall. I saw my other fellow blogger Chris in one of the sofas. Later, I found out he had been sitting there for 6 hours. I went to the floor at the front and made a pillow with my sweater.

Though The Clock is a 24 hour video that has no continuous narrative apart for what time it is, it’s still made up of some of the most compelling narrative movies of all time. Movies that are meant to take you out of the place where you are and bring you entirely into the world where they are – an aspect of storytelling that our culture has become masterful at.

It was funny to come to it after having watched so much television just before, television that is meant to eat your time and make you forget about where you are.  It was strange, in that room at the Power Plant Gallery, to have that very familiar feeling of being taken away from your world combined with continuous reminders of what time it is in your world. Every few moments, when you remember what time it is in your world,  you inevitably remember where in your world you are, lying on the floor at the Power Plant at 6.18 am, 6.19 am 6.20 am. It’s like being at home watching television but the television isn’t lying to you. It was as though the fundamental elements of being in someone else’s world and then being in your own world were being tied together, a rhythmic loop that feels both impossible and also completely natural. Nothing felt forced or awkward about this tie, it felt like something that could be easily tied together and finally was.

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