David Claerbout, Bordeaux Piece, Long Goodbye, Dancing Couples
"Traditionally, museum lighting comes from outside of the artworks; it is what makes contemplation of the artworks possible in the first place. Inside the museum, there is usually perfect daylight, even if that light is totally artificial. Media art in the form of video and film installations, on the other hand, has brought night and dusk into the museum."
(Boris Groys, catalogue essay "Film in Art Spaces")
As the motif for invitation cards to Diese Sonne strahlt immer
at the Secession, Belgian artist David Claerbout selected a relatively unspectacular-looking snapshot: Rodin's Eve in the entrance hall of the Bauhaus University in Weimar, photographed against dazzling backlight. This photograph, on show in the Hauptraum together with seven film works, is emblematic for Claerbout's first solo show in Austria, where sunlight, a key theme in his work, is made to shine using artificial light. The darkened Hauptraum is lit only by the light from the video projections, that reflects off the silver floor adding an extra shine. "My fascination did not so much come from the intensity of sunlight", Claerbout says, but rather from how a relatively weak projector light can still bring about the memory of intensity in a way that hurts the eye. This simple phenomenon proves that we observe via our memory of things."
David Claerbout, Silent Shore, Bordeau Piece, Long Goodbye
In fact, however, the exhibition's title refers to an advertisement for infrared solaria from the 1930s that the artist discovered in Edvard Munch's archive. The advertisement stands for the triumph of electrical over natural light. The former is always available, and it forms the basis for Claerbout's art, enabling lighting and projection. But the protagonist of the video projections in the show is daylight, as an indicator of time.
David Claerbout, Bordeaux Piece, Long Goodbye
According to Claerbout, the once opposing characteristics of film (= movement) and photography (= the frozen moment) are no longer so clear. And this is the point from which he developed his own philosophy. Claerbout manipulates time by using the principles of the media of photography and film for both. He digitally animates photographs, for example, depriving them of their static quality—such works include his well known Kindergarten Sant'Elia 1932
(1998) and the Internet project Present
(2000). Or he deprives film of its movement: by slowing down human movements in contrast to an accelerated sequence of daylight in Long Goodbye
(2007); by the unbearable repetition of the same sequence between sunrise and sunset in Bordeaux Piece
(2004); or by animated sequences of photographs showing the same scene over and over again, but from a different viewpoint, as in The Quiet Shore
(2011) and The Algiers' Sections of A Happy Moment
(2008), both works in which an "animation of time, in the sense of bringing alive" takes place. Photographs, Claerbout says, offer the security of a past moment; the time one spends looking at the photograph is an assurance of the present. In The Quiet Shore
and The Algiers' Sections of A Happy Moment
, he says, the photographic work relinquishes its exclusive claim to embody the past, while film relinquishes its exclusive claim to stand for the here and now.
David Claerbout, Bordeaux Piece, Silent Shore
Anyone expecting a structured plot will be disappointed: "In my work the pattern of expectation is hampered. (…) Cinematic deliverance is avoided and narrative threads are evaded."* Instead, the stories are told by the following protagonists: the supporting elements of the media of photography and film, i.e., light, music, and composition, symbolized by (modern) architecture. The latter is also often at odds with the strong presence of nature, as in The Stack
(2002) or the abovementioned Bordeaux Piece
Claerbout devotes a great deal of time and attention to his works. In many cases, he photographs or films the original setting and adds in the human protagonists filmed in a blue box later. And viewing his works also takes time. But that is why we go to museums and galleries: "For some reason I am lucky enough to show my works in a gallery, where time's ticking clock can't be heard. That is the point of a museum: looking back." And that is Claerbout's most important tool as a filmmaker: "not the film itself, but memory."*
* David Claerbout in conversation with Inka Graeve Ingelmann, from the catalogue uncertain eye
, Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich 2010
LIST OF WORKS
Single-channel video projection, color, silent, 36 min., loop
Emanuel Hoffmann Foundation, on permanent loan to Basel public art collection
As the sun sets, sending its last rays through the crossed bridge supports of expressways, a homeless man lies – almost invisible at first glance – in the foreground of the composition. A ray of light falls on him for two of the film's 36 minutes.
Single-channel video projection, color, stereo, 18 min.
Courtesy Collection Sylvie Winckler
was conceived in 2009 entirely on the basis of music," says Claerbout: "When I first heard Vocalise by Sergei Rachmaninoff, I felt that it was missing a film. I like to call the piece a video clip (…)." Beginning in darkness, the projection ends in the dazzling light of the sunrise that accompanies a woman with her bicycle. Between the two lie the woman's work routines: a housemaid in a modernist villa, she tidies up at dawn and prepares breakfast. The house's austere architectural composition, the artist notes, evokes both a utopia and a prison. Then the escape into nature, accompanied by Rachmaninoff's Vocalise
, "from silent perfection to a flood of emotion. Filmed like a classic closing sequence, it feels like a beginning."
Rodin in Weimar
Color photograph, 52 x 66.5 cm
Courtesy the artist and the galleries Micheline Szwajcer, Yvon Lambert, Hauser & Wirth
The Quiet Shore
Single-channel video projection, b/w, silent, 36 min. 32 sec., loop
Courtesy Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris
A beach in Brittany, the region alleged to have the strongest tides in Europe. At low tide, the smooth, seemingly frozen surface of the water left behind on the sand reflects what goes on: people on the beach, children, couples, women leaving the beach, women watching the scene from nearby houses. A moment, captured from different angles, and all eyes are on a single point on the beach. It is as if the water had turned into ice, into crystal.
Single-channel video projection, color, dual-mono via headphones and loudspeakers, 13 hrs 43 min.
Courtesy Hélène Lemoine
On first viewing, and even on second viewing, the story based on Jean-Luc Godard's Le Mépris
) involving three characters (one woman, two men) may be interesting. With every additional viewing, however, the background moves further into the foreground: the dawning, growing, being, fading day, the light. Filmed over the course of a month, always between 5:30 am and 10 pm, on a given day the exact same short scene was shot at ten minute intervals from dusk until dawn, 75 times. Later, the individual scenes were edited together. The film is synchronized with the time in the exhibition space. Coming into the Hauptraum at 10:20, one sees the version filmed at 10:20. It is best to visit several times, to see what Claerbout calls "the triumph of light, the almost impressionist study of light" in all its subtle shades.
The Algiers' Sections of A Happy Moment
Single-channel video projection, b/w, stereo, 37 min., loop
Courtesy Kunstmuseum St. Gallen, gift of Senn BPM AG
For this piece, Claerbout took more than 50,000 photographs and then selected 600 to capture a happy moment from every angle, "to create a continuous moment in time": a football pitch in Algiers, a group of men, the moment when one of them starts feeding the seagulls.
Single-channel video projection, color, silent, 12 min., loop
Courtesy Collection Vanmoerkerke, Oostende
"More meaningful than the gesture of the actress is the disappearance of the light" (David Claerbout): a middle-aged woman comes out of a house, steps onto the terrace, sees the camera, smiles and waves. At this moment, the camera begins slowly, very slowly, to move backwards away from the woman, and as it very slowly withdraws, darkness steadily falls, one can make out the beautiful house, the garden, less and less, until the night totally covers everything.
Dancing Couples (after: Couples at square dance, McIntosh County, Oklahoma, 1939 or 1940)
Single-channel video projection, color, silent, 40 min., loop
Courtesy the artist and the galleries Micheline Szwajcer, Yvon Lambert, Hauser & Wirth
The hard light of camera flashes falls on the faces of dancing young men who turn towards the light while their female partners remain hidden. A very slow pan from left to right and back searches for the faces of the women, wishing to break the male dominance.
David Claerbout (born 1969 in Kortrijk, Belgium) lives and works in Antwerp and Berlin.
Since 1997, many solo shows, including Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich; SFMOMA, San Francisco; WIELS, Brussels; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Musées royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique, Brussels; Kunstmuseum St. Gallen; NCA Gallery, Tokyo; Museo do Chiado, Lisbon; Yvon Lambert, New York; and Akademie der Künste, Berlin, to name just a few.
Solo shows in 2012: the time that remains
, Parasol unit, London; Leopold-Hoesch-Museum, Düren, Germany; Mart. Museo di arte moderna e contemporanea di Trento e Rovereto, Rovereto; and Diese Sonne strahlt immer
, Secession, Vienna.
Since 2000, his work has been included in numerous group shows. In 2012, they included: Museum Brandhorst, Munich; MacKenzie Art Gallery, Regina (CA); Istanbul Modern; MAC's Musée des Arts Contemporains – Site du Grand Hornu, Grand Hornu (BE); De Loketten in the Flemish Parliament, Brussels; EYE Film Instituut Nederland, Amsterdam; Haus der Kunst, Munich; Memling in Sint-Jan Hospitaalmuseum, Bruges; Sin-Jan, Sint-Baafskathedraal, Ghent; Museum Folkwang, Essen; Stadtgalerie Kiel; MIKSER 2012, GEOZAVOD Building, Savamala, Belgrade; Seoul Museum of Art.
Diese Sonne strahlt immer
120 pages, dimension: 165x222mm
Texts by Boris Groys and Peter Eleey
Distribution: Revolver Verlag
Available in the shop
with David Claerbout and Thomas D. Trummer (In English)
Friday, May 4, 2012, 7 p.m.
Organised by the Friends of the Secession
Installation views: Wolfgang Thaler
The exhibition David Clearbout is a cooperation with the government of Flanders.
The Secession is supported by:
Partner of the Secession
Bundesministerium für Unterricht, Kunst und Kultur
Friends of the Secession
Cooperation-, Mediapartners, Non-Cash Benefit:
hs art service austria GmbH
Schremser – Das Waldviertler Bier
For further information and photographic material please contact:
Secession, Association of Visual Artists Vienna Secession
Friedrichstraße 12, 1010 Vienna
Tel: +43-1-5875307-21, Fax: +43-1-5875307-34