For the past twenty years David Claerbout has been developing an unprecedented work that lies somewhere between cinema, painting and photography. Here the artist besieges the vast rooms of the Abattoirs' ground floor and creates a dialogue between ten monumental works of art. Titled Vision de nuit (“night vision”), this exhibition invites the visitor to look at the reality of our surrounding landscape – the modern urban architecture as well as the details of nature: trees, waters, winds etc. but also the reality of the image today.
Appropriating archives, addressing the image digitally and reworking it pixel by pixel, Claerbout's research is about its physicality. At a time in which pictures are consumed excessively, time also becomes a sculpting material for the artist. Associating fixedness and movement thanks to the effects of compression, stretching and slowness his video creations become suspended tableaux, as many invitations to contemplation and drifting around. The exhibition is also fixed in a more global history of pho- tography and video. Devised in two parts it analyses the transition from the analogue image fixed on film and completely dematerialised digital creation. The North wing of the Abattoirs, calm and monochrome, starts with photography and cinema's beginnings in the 19th century whereas the South wing references the apparition of colour and sound up to the all-digital. While today the process picture-making passes more and more via computers instead of through a camera's lens, the artist reveals the emergence of a new form of optics that could be specific to a multimedia experience. He calls it Dark Optics ("Vision de nuit") because we could very well “turn off the lights and gaze at the night all day long” when faced with these images. Far from considering real objects as existing inside a virtual universe once they have passed behind the screen, the artist reveals the presence of a new materiality of the image in the hope, he says, of “finding the confirmation that we are still alive and that we perceive a coherent world.”
Video artist and talented draughtsman David Claerbout was born in 1969 in Kortrijk Belgium. From 1992 to 1995 he studied at the Académie Royale des Beaux- Arts in Antwerp, Belgium. From an early stage his work questioned the characteristics of classic cinema, especially the notions of time and narrative in order to offer a more sensitive film experience. He now lives in Antwerp and continues these considerations he begun in the 1990's.