David Claerbout : David Claerbout
02 May – 07 June 2008
The installations of the Belgian artist David Claerbout exist on the thresholds between the “old” media of film, video and photography. A clear classification based on the specific features of the photographic or cinematic image is not possible here. Claerbout violates the perception mechanisms of these genres. The exchange of specifically cinematic and photographic dramatic composition reflects Claerbout’s central aim to question the conventional ideas of the reproduction of time and narrative sequences.
In The Algiers´ Sections of a Happy Moment, Claerbout shows a small football pitch on a roof top of the Kasbah of Algier. Across the labyrinth of houses and alleyways, one can see the Mediterranean sea. A group of older spectators watches a few young Maghrebs who have just interrupted their match while one of their players feeds a few eager seagulls. This intimate, peaceful moment, caught from numerous perspectives in hundreds of photographs repeats itself in the picture sequence of Claerbout’s slide show projection again and again. The viewer’s expectation that it might soon evaporate, fades gradually. The images of this moment, which have been extracted by the trickling of time, contrast with their continuous sequence; the changing pictures’ rhythm emphasises the passing of time. The parallelism of fragmentation and continuity in this work can be read as a reference to the thought that in each moment, for all participants (all observers in a certain constellation), meanings that influence each other converge only to immediately diverge. Contradicting its current fleetingness, the moment captured by Claerbout thus obtains its meaning.
Long Goodbye is a movement’s video study. At dusk, a woman steps out of a door onto a back porch. She discovers the camera, smiles and waves goodbye. The scene was filmed by a camera slowly retreating backwards. In this piece of work as well, Claerbout enriches a simple, universal gesture to a complex narrative component by the way it is recorded and played back. In exactly the moment in which the woman discovers the camera, it starts moving backwards, like an observer who ashamedly retreats upon his discovery. Again, Claerbout emphasises the temporal level – not only through the slow movement, but especially through his manipulation of the twilight that fades quickly compared to the action. The further the camera moves away, the more details of the beautiful location become visible to the viewer – only to fade away quickly in the growing darkness. This creates a longing for this even more unattainable place.
With the element of time, the duration within his works, Claerbout influences the perception of what the viewer sees. Claerbout develops a narrative with a growing complexity by capturing and repeating a split second as well as by sectioning and extending it into numerous segments and perspectives from various distances. Claerbout lets a sombre and factual examination of a simple movement grow into a story of unfolding meaning. The works’ exemplarity and nearly perfect form seem to advocate the pre-eminence of their genres. Thus, Claerbout’s works’ singular meaning can be discovered in the combination and overlapping done by the artist.