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David Claerbout. Unseen Sound






In spring and summer 2021, Garage Museum of Contemporary Art will show solo exhibitions by David Claerbout, Rodney Graham, and Sophia Al-Maria, three artists who work with film and video and expand our understanding of the moving image—its forms, functions, and the emotions it can invoke.

The cycle begins with the first solo exhibition of Belgian artist David Claerbout in Russia. His work is best defined as a hybrid, where media dissolve into one another using video, photography, film, and 3D to create images that question our perceptions and expectations.

Unseen Sound brings together four works that span a period of more than ten years, and show the artist’s increasing occupation with what he describes as “dark optics,” a term he uses to describe the contemporary state of the image. Claerbout believes that the century-and-a-half long dominance of lens-based media in art came to an end in the twentieth century, and that the production of art has now returned to the paradigm that existed before the 1850s, or before the spread of photography. Today, he argues, images are once again produced by skilled craftsmen, who manipulate reality using graphics and video editors. Meanwhile public trust in the photographic image began to falter in the 1970s and today the idea of photography as a document and evidence has given way to fundamental doubt regarding any image, fuelled by the increasing effectiveness and availability of digital editing tools. 

All of the works presented in the exhibition at Garage capture single moments stretched in time and space. This expansion reveals new layers of reality behind seemingly trivial images, and new characters emerge. Henri Cartier-Bresson's “decisive moment” turns into a panorama of separate and diverging perspectives. However, the complete picture remains unattainable: the number of additional frames may be unlimited and the scene can expand ad infinitum. Claerbout’s work underlines the subjective relativity of the punctum, the shaky ground for the position of the eyewitness, and the unstable balance of a black-and-white photo, an artefact sometimes viewed as being as immutable as (deceptively) white ancient marble. 

As the title of the exhibition—Unseen Sound—indicates, these works visualize sound as a central event that, nevertheless, remains beyond aural perception. Sections of a Happy Moment (2007) and The Algiers' Sections of a Happy Moment (2008) capture moments of a street ball game. The Quiet Shore (2011) is a series of beach scenes shot during a loud splash. Set at a grand reception, the “confetti” piece (2015–2018 ) shows the second when the fireworks of confetti rain down. For Claerbout, digital materiality will not remain as virtual reality but will attempt to penetrate as many aspects of life as possible, altering optical and material habits. Lens-based images are already part of the past, and will be replaced by dark optics.

Curator: Valentin Diaconov



Current Exhibitions and Projects

Spirit Labor: Duration, Difficulty, and Affect

Thomas Demand. Mirror Without Memory

Paweł Althamer. Silence

Garage Square

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