Untitled (Carl & Julie)

David Claerbout


Installation, 00:43:00.

Collection: Collection M HKA, Antwerp (Inv. no. BK7218).

A man and a child sit at a patio table. During the projection the image remains unchanged. Only when a visitor approaches the screen, is a sensor activated and the image starts to move. The man draws the girl’s attention to something or someone (the viewer?) off screen, she turns her head, looks up a moment and then turns back again. Photograph and video flow together. The interactive element gives Untitled (Carl & Julie) the character of a ‘living picture’, marked by the carefully balanced composition, quietude, and a play of light rich in contrasts. These qualities run throughout Claerbout’s oeuvre. The artist uses found footage and adds his own details that he digitally activates to arrive at an estranging effect. David Claerbout plays with his medium. His work hovers between documentation and simulation. He likes planting doubt in visitors’ minds. ‘The more real the piece looks, the more false it is. That’s a lesson the eye must learn. Gone with the true, the human, the probable. Beauty is always based on deceit.’ As viewers, we are aware that what we are looking at is an illusion, a staged scene. Claerbout’s foremost desire is for the viewer to gain a greater concrete awareness of time, but without going about it in a truly narrative way. What occurred before and after the moment we get to see remains in up in the air. This element of loss or absence of something or someone, also gives Untitled (Carl & Julie) a melancholic air. With very simple, minimal means, David Claerbout creates an unresolved tension. He shows us people, buildings, situations and landscapes, but nothing is completed or laid down in a story. In looking at Claerbout’s work, we also come to consider our own ways of seeing, our own power of imagination.

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