Menu

Travel, 1996-2013

12 min. hd color animation, stereo sound

The idea and first preparations for this work date back seventeen years (1996) when I came across a particular piece of relaxation music.
It was originally composed in the mid 80’s by Eric Breton whose therapeutic music would take away stress, and ultimately induce sleep. I considered that making a piece that could make people fall asleep was not a bad thing at all. Being purpose driven sounds, the aural images are so predictable and ‘locked in’ that they reminded me of people with stubborn ideas who are unable to lose them.

One particular interest lies in the synthesizer’s impassioned, yet cinematic character, suggestive of ‘generic’ images anyone could imagine, of places in a dark and tranquil forest. The decision not to film, but to use very advanced computer images reflect the search for a space that is beyond the specific, that wants to be generic: it could be many places, but none in particular. After a three years production period, a continuous camera movement makes a journey starting in a park, going into a dark European forest, then an Amazonian jungle and finally exiting the forest revealing a nondescript suburban plain. At this moment of musical finale, disenchantment and catharsis ‘share the podium’ going into ascension, making it impossible to conclude a final image. With ‘Travel’ I wanted to prove to myself that i could work with anything, even with the shallowest of meanings.

David Claerbout, 2013


Travel, 1996-2013

12 min. hd color animation, stereo sound

The idea and first preparations for this work date back seventeen years (1996) when I came across a particular piece of relaxation music.
It was originally composed in the mid 80’s by Eric Breton whose therapeutic music would take away stress, and ultimately induce sleep. I considered that making a piece that could make people fall asleep was not a bad thing at all. Being purpose driven sounds, the aural images are so predictable and ‘locked in’ that they reminded me of people with stubborn ideas who are unable to lose them.

One particular interest lies in the synthesizer’s impassioned, yet cinematic character, suggestive of ‘generic’ images anyone could imagine, of places in a dark and tranquil forest. The decision not to film, but to use very advanced computer images reflect the search for a space that is beyond the specific, that wants to be generic: it could be many places, but none in particular. After a three years production period, a continuous camera movement makes a journey starting in a park, going into a dark European forest, then an Amazonian jungle and finally exiting the forest revealing a nondescript suburban plain. At this moment of musical finale, disenchantment and catharsis ‘share the podium’ going into ascension, making it impossible to conclude a final image. With ‘Travel’ I wanted to prove to myself that i could work with anything, even with the shallowest of meanings.

David Claerbout, 2013


Highway Wreck, 2013

hd b&w animation, silent

People stuck in a traffic jam got out of their cars to look at a crashed car by the side of the road, surrounded by rescue workers. Like a body that goes into coma, the surroundings come to a standstill and all the energy is drawn towards the emergency. It becomes the single focal point of the moment. The idea for this work, however, does not come from an emergency, but almost the opposite : from a found photograph dating back more than 70 years ago. The black and white image depicts a few children and a soldier fascinated by what remains of a car that crashed moments before. But for us – looking at that photograph – means looking simultaneously at a relic of the past (the black and white image or the car) and something that just happened. What does it mean when something from the past is ‘urgent’? or, reversed: when this crash site has all the time in world, why hurry? Disaster has in common with cinema that everything in it is consumed by the here-and-now, it is the spectacular action cinema of life. Highway Wreck is an attempt to disarm that spectacle.


Oil workers (from the Shell company of Nigeria) returning home from work, caught in torrential rain, 2013

hd color animation, duration endless, silent

Meticulously reconstructed from a found photograph, this portrait shows a group of Nigerian men as they seek shelter from monsoon rains. At first, the hastily taken snapshot seems to show people who will quickly walk away as soon as the rain ends. But sometimes photographs speak twice: A second look reveals a sense that these people are stuck. The video uses 3D computer techniques and a simple camera movement, setting adrift the original image’s certainties.

Of all the manifestations of time, waiting is one of the most difficult, because it involves being unproductive. The price tag that hangs on minutes, hours and days makes time expensive. When time is money it is difficult to see unproductive time as free; waiting can be a new experience for some, while others cannot stand it. Drought, conflict and poverty surround Africa like a cloud of flies, determining the picture we have of a continent. It is rarely portrayed as wet, which is the central matter of this piece and an ideal point of departure for a story about the oil industry.


Breathing Bird (Suite), 2012

two flat screens (19″)
two-channel video on two flat screens, color, silent, loop

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


Orchestra Lightbox, 2011

302 x 155 x 18 cm
laserchrome transparency mounted on opal matt diasec in aluminium lightbox

David Claerbout’s Orchestra, a large lightbox, singles out a specific theatrical moment that has been suspended in silence. This lightbox is akin to the series Nocturnal Lightboxes (1999), Venice Lightboxes (2000), and Nightscape Lightboxes (2002-2003).

The spectator of the work enters into a completely darkened room to gradually make out an object hanging on the wall, the lightbox. Slowly adapting to the dark surroundings, one sees the dimly lit profile of an orchestra conductor whose stare is directed back to the spectator. The orchestra is not visible here, having been cropped out by the camera angle. As one’s eyes adapt steadily, it becomes apparent that the audience has focused their gaze on the spectator so that he or she feels like an intruder on the performance.


Homeless Cat, 2011

42-inch LCD screen (1920 x 1080)
interactive, real-time video synchronized with actual day and nighttime, silent, endless

Homeless Cat is about a cat that lives constantly in a contained and excluded world away from the viewer. In this piece, there is an illusion of interaction between the cat and the viewer. When it rains at the location where the work is situated we will see it raining in the world of the cat; day and night-cycles are synchronized between these two worlds as also the seasons. The viewer can even try to catch the cat’s attention but he will not always react. In the end, we have two worlds that seem to be interwoven with each other and try to communicate, but ultimately reject each other. Where there is an invitation for interaction, the work actually rejects the viewer.


Travel, 1996-2013

12 min. hd color animation, stereo sound

The idea and first preparations for this work date back seventeen years (1996) when I came across a particular piece of relaxation music.
It was originally composed in the mid 80’s by Eric Breton whose therapeutic music would take away stress, and ultimately induce sleep. I considered that making a piece that could make people fall asleep was not a bad thing at all. Being purpose driven sounds, the aural images are so predictable and ‘locked in’ that they reminded me of people with stubborn ideas who are unable to lose them.

One particular interest lies in the synthesizer’s impassioned, yet cinematic character, suggestive of ‘generic’ images anyone could imagine, of places in a dark and tranquil forest. The decision not to film, but to use very advanced computer images reflect the search for a space that is beyond the specific, that wants to be generic: it could be many places, but none in particular. After a three years production period, a continuous camera movement makes a journey starting in a park, going into a dark European forest, then an Amazonian jungle and finally exiting the forest revealing a nondescript suburban plain. At this moment of musical finale, disenchantment and catharsis ‘share the podium’ going into ascension, making it impossible to conclude a final image. With ‘Travel’ I wanted to prove to myself that i could work with anything, even with the shallowest of meanings.

David Claerbout, 2013