David Claerbout

14 September - 21 October 2000

The idea to make night- and morning photographs in Venice was developed by David Claerbout half a year after finishing two nocturnal landscapes shot at the Hautes Fagnes in Belgium. Thanks to its particular urbanistic structure with channels giving to wide open expanses of water, Venice is only partially and dimly lit at night. Looking upon the opposite riverbank you will see at most a lit tower, pier or monument. The horizon shows itself as a dark mass against an open sky.

In the daytime (during the summer) the situation is exactly the opposite: the sunlight is reflected by the water on the buildings, colours become more intense in the almost blinding light, the baroque architecture becomes almost weightless, in contrast to the nocturnal circumstances.

David Claerbout found in this exceptional urban situation a comparison with the earlier nocturnal landscapes of the Hautes Fagnes. Remarkably, this in a city that suffers from a massive tourist flow during the summer months, which leads us to his second motivation: the representation of this museum-city in our collective memory. You don't even need to visit this city to know what it looks like, so to speak. The widespread representation of this city unvariably consists of light, water, white stone, refined architectural sculpture. It is very difficult to imagine a fragmented view of Venice (made up of details drawn from personal experience).

Global clichés impose themselves time and time again. A friend of the artist put it this way: "you might say that Venice is bathed by light but that it lacks objective light". The artist has visited Venice several times himself and admits to having the feeling that he can never really perceive this museum-city. Undoubtedly did this constatation prompt the idea to photograph Venice at night or in the early morning, in circumstances of little light and strong silhouettes.

The shoots were done with a special camera used for architectural photography, between 4 and 6 am, or just before or after sunset. Four images were selected. The architecture is presented as a frontal monument, but a distance is created by the water in the foreground functioning as a gap between spectator and monument.

Man under arches

The video sequences are triggered by two detectors installed in the exhibition space. The basic image is a frontal view of two industrial arches that cast strong shadows. The lack of contrasts in the shadow area creates a situation in which the viewer will be guessing whether there is something or someone under the arches. In the shadow a person is looking at the spectator, waiting to see what will happen. The sensors are programmed in such a way that as soon they detect a physical presence in the exhibition space the character in the video remains immobile. This as long as the spectator stays in the room.

On the left hand side of the image there is a sloping wall running away behind the arcades. The character will exit and walk behind the scene at the same time as the spectator leaves the projection room.

The events in the exhibition space and those inside the projection run inversely parallel: as long as the visitor is present the character in the video remains immobile. The character walks out of the dark and leaves the scene as soon as the spectator leaves the exhibition space. The spectator will never see the character in the video but will be looking on two large frontal openings instead.