Thursday, July 19, 2012

Tick Tock: The Clock

I'm currently in Newfoundland,  facilitating a series of workshops all around the province, but on my way here, I came through Ottawa and stopped at the National Gallery of Canada on a hot, steamy day.  I was intrigued on so many levels by Christian Marclay's The Clock,  a media installation that is a 24 hour film that takes thousands of movie and TV clips showing the time,  or people saying the time,  and runs in the real time.  (ie if it's 11:00 when you're watching,  it's 11:00 on screen).  It's difficult to explain, but totally worth going to see if it's installed in a location near you.

But aside from the spotting of actors known and unknown (who was that guy looking at his watch?) I think there are some lessons for those of us who develop exhibits.

Pacing:  the installation moves quickly,  but never feels rushed.  Some clips are longer, others are just a mere seconds of a shot of a clock face.  I was surprised to see how long I sat and watched.  How could we pace exhibits so that visitors lose track of time because they're so engaged?

The familiar combined in a  new way:  what could be more familiar (to my generation at least) than looking at a clock or watch face.  But over and over and over again,  together,  they seemed different.  How can we combine objects or images in ways that seem new and different?

Repetition:  I'm not a fan of every item in a collection displayed all the time,  but there was something here about the repetition of objects and images.  If we're going to display lots of something,  can't we find a way to make that exciting?  (and there are some brilliant examples out there--I think of the National Museum of the American Indian for one).

Suspense:  Obviously, we know what's happening...time ticks on (and in the section I saw,  lots of clock ticking related to crime).  But somehow Marclay builds dramatic suspense;  provides a release, and goes on to build suspense again.   How can we build suspenseful exhibits when we're telling historical stories.

And finally, comfy seats!  In the installation I saw,  the number of people were limited, and the seating was composed of comfy couches lined up in rows.  They provided an intimacy that was very different than theater seating.

Want to read more about The Clock?  See here, here and here

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