Olaf Nicolai’s 24-hour film explores the course of time, its measurement and meaning in both physical and philosophical terms.
The film focuses on the Karl Marx monument designed by Lew Kerbel and inaugurated in Chemnitz, then Karl-Marx-Stadt, in 1971. The statue was filmed over 24 hours on September 21 and 22, 2020, with a single, fixed camera shot—starting at midday on September 21. The chosen frame deliberately shows only part of the monumental face, with light reflecting off its sharply contoured bronze surface. The 24-hour close-up transforms the political icon into a landscape subject to constant change under the surrounding light conditions. Along with the sounds of traffic and the passers-by, one can hear the chimes of the nearby town hall.
The film was shot during the autumnal equinox, when day and night are the same length, and it is screened at the equinox in different locations. Each location begins screening at 12 noon local time, always in a windowless room. The fact that the filmed time coincides perfectly with the time of the screening is emphasized by the chimes of the town hall clock. These stylistic devices together create a kind of a time capsule.
Olaf Nicolai grew up in Karl-Marx-Stadt and is thus biographically connected to the film’s leitmotif. The film ends with a quote from the Danish poet Inger Christensen: “Nobody knows in spite of everything whether the universe is counting backwards while we count faithfully forward.”
Other screening locations include (in chronological order): Times Museum (Guangzhou) / Maudi (Tbilisi) / Al Ma'mal Foundation for Contemporary Art (Jerusalem) / Cinémathèque de Tanger (Tanger) / Goethe-Institut (Sofia) / Locus Athens (Athens) / Haus der Kulturen der Welt (Berlin) / Haus der Kunst (Munich) / Kunstsammlungen Chemnitz (Chemnitz) / Macro. Museum of Contemporary Art (Rome) / MGML. Museum and Galleries of Ljubljana (Ljubljana) / ICA. Institute of Contemporary Arts (London) / Fogo Island Arts (Fogo Island) / Subte. Centro de Exposiciones (Montevideo) / Arte Continua La Habana (Havana) / Villa Aurora (Los Angeles).
Director: Olaf Nicolai
Germany, 2021. 1440 min. 16+