The Clock

By Rachel Thomson

Her name was Wren, and as I sat beside her in the dark cinema, letting her gum my fingers with her soft wet exploratory mouth, I experienced a synchronisation between the human body and an extended ‘electric’ consciousness.

The film we were watching was Christian Marclay’s The Clock, a tapestry of film fragments synchronised to real time, anchoring audience, documents and narrative within a 24-hour cycle. While the fragments are drawn from the history of the cinema, The Clock is a deeply digital project, with editing underpinned by automated searches of the database that is the history of cinema.

We enjoy clusters of meaningful transition: built around gesture; shots; cineaste jokes; and perhaps also accident. Each transition is ‘cute’ (we see what you did there) but ephemeral, as time’s arrow drives us forward and reminds us that yes, it is that time, inside and outside the screen. But this is a circular time. I can come again on the weekend for the 24-hour showing and witness the rarely-seen material documenting the wee-small hours. I wonder how much movie time is given over to 3.30 am. Maybe night-time goes more quickly? Or are the sequences just longer? I predict a flurry of phone calls waking people with bad news.

I feel anxious about how much time I can afford to spend here, but also hating to miss anything. If I manage to see it all, would I have consumed time or film history? Or should I just chill out and treat this as an extended metaphor, telling stories from the materiality of culture, facilitated by automated search and retrieval?

The cinema is packed, the audience is compelled. As conceptual art this works, as entertainment this works. Interestingly people seem to come and go on the hour, using the clock to structure their voyeurism. But I am connected to Wren and her indigenous temporality. As we sit at adjacent sofas we play pat-a-cake until she gets bored. She explores my rings, enjoys eye contact as it comes and goes in the flickering light. She is on Wren-time: her cycles and circles are both faster and slower than clock time and they are never the same twice. Wren has been born for nine months so far, and I take my cue to slip away when she forgets me and moves onto the next thing.

Christian Marclay’s The Clock is showing at the Tate Modern until January 20th 2019.

Messy Notes from the Messy Edge

By Jo Lindsay Walton

 “[…] had the it forow sene […]”

— John Barbour, The Brus (c.1375)

I am in the Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts. It is my first time in the Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts.

It’s a pretty good Centre.

It’s Messy Edge 2018, part of Brighton Digital Festival. The name “Messy Edge,” I guess, must be a play on “cutting edge.” It must be a rebuke to a certain kind of techno‑optimism – or more specifically, to the aesthetics which structure and enable that optimism. That is, the image of technology as something slick, even, and precise, which glides resistlessly onward through infinite possibility. If this aesthetic has any messiness at all, it’s something insubstantial, dispersed as shimmer and iridescence and lens flare.

My mind flicks to a chapter in Ruth Levitas’s Utopia as Method, where she explores the utopian presence that pervades the colour blue. Blue sky thinking, the blues. She never mentions “blueprint,” and I wonder if that’s deliberate? – an essay haunted, textured, structured, enabled, by its unuttered pun. Like how no one ever asks Bojack Horseman, “Why the long face?”

Utopia as Method – my copy anyway – is blue.

Some artists are really awful at talking about their art. Some, I suspect, do this deliberately. Or at least, their incompetence comes from stubborn adherence to something disordered and convoluted, to something in their work that would vanish from any punchy soundbyte. I like them, these artists who are really awful at talking about their art. “Awful” – filled with awe?

By contrast, the digital artists at Messy Edge are by and large very good at talking about their art, and about the political context of their art.

OK, I like them too.

Continue reading “Messy Notes from the Messy Edge”