• This image, from Belgian artist David Claerbout's "Sections of a Happy Moment," displays a family playing catch.

    Photo courtesy / Galerie Micheline Szwajcer, Yvon Lambert, Hauser & Wirth, and Johnen & Schöttle.

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  • The same scene from above is shown from a dehumanizing gaze of surveillance cameras.

    Photo courtesy / Galerie Micheline Szwajcer, Yvon Lambert, Hauser & Wirth, and Johnen & Schöttle.

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Claerbout exhibit opens Friday at List Center

The MIT List Visual Arts Center is presenting the first U.S. museum survey of works by Belgian artist David Claerbout, on exhibit Feb. 8 through April 6.

Claerbout, 39, mixes snapshots and video to form images that explore our ever-changing sense of time and our subtle, often-overlooked gestures of intimacy, disconnection or bafflement.

Filmed mostly in modern urban settings, Claerbout's works reward the patient observer with subtle, poignant narratives that an accelerated media culture doesn't allow: In "Sections of a Happy Moment," a family slowly plays catch beneath the dehumanizing gaze of surveillance cameras; in "The Stack," sunlight illuminates a sleeping homeless person and a highway overpass during 36 minutes of approaching twilight.

Other Claerbout works at the List exhibit include "Vietnam, 1967, near Duc Pho (reconstruction after Hiromishi Mine)." Here, Claerbout reconstructs a war reporter's iconic black-and-white photo of a plane shot down by friendly fire during the Vietnam War. Using digital technology to freeze the historic still in a film of the lush, jungly present, Claerbout erases and accentuates the 33-year gap between the two.

In "Shadow Piece," a number of passersby attempt to open a set of glass doors into the entrance hall of a building. Their shadows remain fixed, suggesting either that time or humanity is pretty much at a standstill.

Claerbout's priceless video, "Cat and Bird in Peace," shows a long-haired tabby and a little canary sharing a box for 10 minutes. Cat stares at monitor; bird peeks at cat now and then. Is it a pause before violence or the peaceable kingdom?

Educated in Antwerp and Amsterdam, Claerbout lives and works in Antwerp and Berlin. His work has been exhibited in Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain and New York.

The exhibition was designed and organized by the Centre Pompidou in Paris, France. After MIT, it will travel to Switzerland, the Netherlands and Japan.

The MIT List Visual Arts Center is located in the Wiesner Building, 20 Ames St., at the eastern edge of the MIT campus. All exhibitions at the center are free, open to the public and wheelchair accessible.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on February 6, 2008 (download PDF).

Topics: Arts


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