Time / Binge / Dream

In a footnote to his essay “Art in the Age of Its Mechanical
Reproducibility,” Benjamin notes that a clock has no place in a play since,
“real-life time would conflict with theatrical time. In view of this, it is
most revealing that film—where appropriate—can readily make use of time as
measured by a clock” (n 21, 126). The work that exploits film’s ability to
mark, capture, or otherwise notate “real-time” is, of course, “The
Christian Marclay’s aria to film-time *as *real-time. Marclay’s film, which
was made by scouring movies for clock displays, requires that it be synched
up precisely with the real-time of its exhibition locale. Viewers of the
film watch time happen both in and as a movie; time, we might say, is
“felt” as viewers delight (take feeling) in watching their own cell phone
clocks or watches keep up with the images on the screen. Marclay has
notoriously strict requirements for those who would show his film: the
seats have to be cushy, the room dark. Such creature comforts draw viewers
into the experience, often for longer than they had anticipated. (See
I watched Marclay’s film when it showed at the MFA in Boston; like most, I
meant to stay a few minutes and ended leaving after an hour. Such anecdotes
are common as Marclay’s movie undoes or reconfigures our attempts at
planning for it. Part of its interest for us might be the way it toys with
time management, reconfiguring relations between acts of attention and
will. (I had a friend who grew obsessed with the movie, staying for hours
on end, returning repeatedly, etc.) Attention as a state always about to
cross its own threshold seems relevant here (Crary 47), as well as the
conditions in which technologies create trance states (e.g. “binge
watching”) or addictive-lite behaviors. Watching more of “The Clock” than
you mean to is part of the viewing experience, but while this might have
much to do with the form of the film, its entertainment value, even its
play with the physicality of a notoriously abstract category, Marclay’s
attention to viewers’ bodies suggests contemplation is itself contingent (I
wouldn’t have stayed so long had I not been ensconced in delicious dark,
and on a couch).

Yet “The Clock’s” effect grew more powerful the longer I was on that couch.
Or, I grew more interested and able to both watch the film and watch myself
watching it, as well as watch myself watching other moments—remembering a
film Marclay had lifted a clip from, matching a landscape on screen to one
I’d seen irl… Like Tan Lin’s poem from yesterday, endurance is rewarded—not
with a sudden burst of “sense,” but by a deepening engagement with process
and a renewed attention to the materials that process tracks. Is such
forking or *compounding* of contemplation different than attention
dissolving into distraction or morphing into trance? I was struck by
Crary’s concern for the “erosion” or disappearance of daydreaming as an
ephemeral, indeterminate state after so many pages of careful and
considered historicizing of perception—does Marclay’s movie-mind-state,
which depends on marking procession as a matter of minutes, differ from
other notorious experiments in film duration like Warhol’s or Douglas
Do such experiments guarantee or re-envision the creative space of daydream
Crary fears (77-8) might not survive the “permanent low-level
attentiveness” required of 21st century perceivers and our multiple
distractive devices? Is there a technics as well as politics to daydream?