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Summer exhibition at Kunsthaus Bregenz focuses on David Claerbout's video and sound works
David Claerbout, Installation view first floor, Kunsthaus Bregenz. Photo: Markus Tretter. Courtesy of David Claerbout © David Claerbout, Kunsthaus Bregenz.

BREGENZ.- Visitors coming into the entrance hall of the Kunsthaus Bregenz this summer will face a large screen. A sequence of images fades into the soft ambient light of Peter Zumthor’s famous building. The video work The Quiet Shore, 2011, seems as if it were made for this place. It is a work by David Claerbout, one of the most renowned and significant contemporary artists. This year’s summer exhibition at the Kunsthaus Bregenz focuses on his video and sound works.

The Quiet Shore is not a film, but a sequence of black-and-white images without a plot. A coastal town in Brittany. It is low tide. The sea has retreated to a mirror-smooth surface in the distance. People can be seen from behind. Some boys stand in the shallow water around a playmate. He forcefully beats both hands into the water so that it splashes around him in a crown. This is the moment on which all the pictures and faces focus. Time is reduced to a single moment, seen from different perspectives.

In Travel, 1996–2013, presented on the first floor, the viewer is taken on a visual tour through a forst inspired by relaxation music. The dispassionate yet cinematic character of the synthesizer, suggestive of “generic” images that anyone could imagine, of places in a dark and tranquil forest, prompted the decision not to film, but to use advanced computer-generated images. This choice reflects the search for a space that is beyond the specific, that wants to be generic like the music.

Facing each other on either side of a windowsill, two birds have come into each other’s field of vision, yet are separated physically. The exhalation of the bird in the cold air outside has resulted in a small area of frozen miniature droplets of water. Breathing Bird, 2012, has several connotations: on the one hand, it could be read as sign of life and desire to communicate, while on the other hand it delineates and enhances the physical frontier and thus accentuates the separation and the impossibility of physical contact.

Radio Piece (Hong Kong), 2015, is an audio-visual installation on the second floor that deals with the intersection of mental and physical space, set in the “walled city,” a vertical slum in the Kowloon district of Hong Kong. Radio Piece casts doubt on the coherence of perception, while formulating a critique of the colonization of the mind as real estate.

Claerbout’s newest video Olympia (The Real-Time Disintegration into Ruins of the Berlin Olympic Stadium over the Course of a Thousand Years), 2016—3016, on the top floor of the KUB is a digital reconstruction of the Olympic Stadium in Berlin, which was built by the Nazis and opened for the 1936 Summer Olympics with great pomp. David Claerbout scanned each stone to create a deceptively real 3D version. The camera leads up to the empty building and through its monumental halls. Its representation in real time has been calculated to last for a thousand years. Stones erode and plants sprout. Even the current weather conditions are simulated using data from a webcam: if the sky over Berlin is cloudless, so it is in the projection.

David Claerbout’s art follows the fascination with the cycles of nature and the ideas of care and time. His works require sensitivity to light and shading, distance and focus, rest and the passage of time. They are characterized by sequences of images without cuts. In fact, the impressions are created digitally. All the shots are based on complex computer calculations. No image is seen; they are all constructed.

In the evening, when the exhibition closes, the facade of the KUB comes to life with an outdoor projection of Claerbout’s Die reine Notwendigkeit/The Pure Necessity (2016). The video is based on the classic 1967 film The Jungle Book. In Claerbout’s film, Baloo, Bagheera, and Kaa do not sing, talk, and dance; Claerbout shows a bear, a panther, and a snake as they behave in nature. They are no longer anthropomorphized. Unlike his other films, these shots were not digitally rendered. Instead, each frame was drawn by hand in the style of the original animated film.

David Claerbout (born 1969 in Kortrijk, Belgium) studied painting in Antwerp. He lives and works in Antwerp and Berlin.

He has been the subject of numerous solo exhibitions internationally at venues including the Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven (2005), Centre Pompidou, Paris (2007), Kunstmuseum St. Gallen (2008), Museum De Pont, Tilburg (2009 and 2016), WIELS, Brussels (2011), SFMOMA — San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (2011), Tel Aviv Museum of Art (2012), Wiener Secession (2012), Kunsthalle Mainz (2013), Nederlands Fotomuseum, Rotterdam (2014), Marabouparken Konsthall, Sundbyberg (2015), KINDL – Centre for Contemporary Art, Berlin (2016), Städel Museum, Frankfurt / Main (2016), MNAC — Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, Barcelona (2017), as well as Schaulager, Münchenstein / Basel (2017). His work is represented in major public collections worldwide.

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