British Art Show 7 @ The Hayward

I ventured up to London the other week to do my semi regular trip to absorb some art and get inspired – loads of great stuff on at the moment so I was spoilt for choice.

However, I decided on going to the Hayward Gallery to check out British Art Show 7.  This is an exhibition that runs every 4 or 5 years and shows contemporary British art made in the last few years.  It is a touring exhibition and features all kinds of art from painting to sculpture to performance to video etc etc.  There really is something for everyone!

A number of pieces stood out for me, but I wanted to highlight one film in particular.  Now I am not often a fan of video installations and video art.  I often think that artists working with film do not achieve the true potential from the medium or do not consider the audience very well in the pieces they make.  That is obviously a huge generalisation – but I more often than not find myself bored watching a video piece in a gallery after a few minutes.

So it is always a surprise when something gets my attention for longer and I am pleased to say there were a few video works at British Art Show 7 which enticed me to watch for their entirety!



Still from ‘The Clock’

The stand out one was Christian Marclay’s The Clock.  Now this really is a great concept that has been very well executed and anyone who has done any editing will know what a massive undertaking it would have been to create.  The film itself is 24 hours long and plays in a continuous loop.  The film is entirely constructed out of moments in film, television and cinema when time is mentioned in the dialogue, a character interacts with a clock or watch, or a reference to time is mentioned or seen.  Thousands of these small fragments of film are edited together so they flow in real time.

This means whenever you enter the film, it is depicting the actual time of day in real life and you sit there watching fragments of films which all depict the passage of time as it is – you are constantly being told the time. 

Whilst most film fragments are seconds long, you begin to form a narrative immediately you start watching one – creating a story and background in your head to make sense of what you are seeing.  Marclay’s clever editing also means the film fragments flow into each other and so you also start creating narratives between different clips.

However, aside from the fun you can have creating narratives and playing ‘guess the film’ the work also has deeper meanings and references.  It looks at how audiences experience the passage of time within cinema and how the medium of film depicts the movement of time.  You are also constantly aware of the passage of time – always knowing how much time you have been watching the film for and being drawn into and out of the film through the parallel of reality and cinematic creation.

There is something strangely enticing about it and also a bit sinister as you almost feel as though you are watching your life disappearing – constantly aware of the time you are ‘wasting’ just watching the passage of time!

I think I was in there for half an hour before realising I really needed to leave before I got stuck in a loop of time forever!  Apparently the Hayward did do a 24 hour screening the other week – I think it would be a brave and dedicated soul who could have endured the full thing!

Anyway, if you get a chance – check it out as it is a great piece of work, very simple in idea and execution – but very powerful.

From a film makers point of view – it would be interesting to know how he managed such a monumental task!  How he found the clips, edited them together etc etc.

Sadly – I could not find a very good clip online, but there is a BBC news story about it on Youtube that gives you an idea:

Christian Marclay(born 1955) is an American visual artist and composer based in London & New York.  Marclay’s work explores connections between sound, noise, photography, video, and film. A pioneer of using gramaphone records and turntables as musical instruments to create sound collage, Marclay is, in the words of critic Thom Jurek, perhaps the “unwitting inventor of turntablism.”His own use of turntables and records, beginning in the mid-1970s, was developed independently of but roughly parallel to hip hop’s use of the instrument.

Read more about him here.

More on British Art Show 7 to follow…perhaps…unless I get distracted by something else, which is quite likely!

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