David Claerbout performs operations upon both photography and film in such a way as to produce a physical experience of both of these mediums and a keen awareness of the potentialities of these mediums. If photography fixes and documents a specific moment in time in such a way as to prevent it from slipping away, film, contrariwise, enables the continuous evolution of one image into another. While conflating photography and film in a computerised medium – a single electronic signal that codifies them into information emitted as video – Claerbout affirms that the concepts of photography and of film survive into this digital medium. The still image and the filmic register in real time are constituted as two temporal modalities that join forces. It is in the condensation of the different temporalities into a single medium that David Claerbout makes his work. Between the suspended present of the still photograph and the continuous present of the film, he reveals a fascination with the image and its temporalities, especially in his inclusion of architectural references to a specific historic moment. Nostalgia and its claims are at the core of the artist’s early works.
In later works, Claerbout’s use of video installation that is, at times, interactive – the sudden awakening, in response to the presence of the viewer, of a still image and its transformation into a moving image – gives rise to a physical experience of the image, conferring upon it a performative dimension. In employing a disembodied medium – film – Claerbout lays claim to the dialogue between film and the viewer, together immersed in an unravelling that instates the body as communicative process.
Since 2004, Claerbout has introduced a narrative dimension in his work in order to query the roles of both the spectator and the set as vehicles for the construction of the time and form of the work’s duration. The backdrop and landscape are submitted to variations of light, while a single narrative repeats itself in an endless oscillation between memory and waning presence.
In his most recent work, David Claerbout gives us large series of photographs taken simultaneously but from various points of view. The sequential presentation of these images suggests a potential for narratives that may, at times, be complex and diverse. But paradoxically, narrative is eschewed by the fact that there is no temporal progression: all the images capture a single moment. Nevertheless, in the spatial proliferation thus created, the idea that the instantaneous is coterminous with presence is deconstructed.
In a way, it is always a deferred time that Claerbout’s works evoke.
Museu Nacional de Arte Contemporânea- Museu do Chiado
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