David Claerbout installs scrims to angle out from the wall so that his digital projections fall across them like afternoon sunlight slanting through a window. The placement prompts viewers to actively walk around the images as they observe them, the constant movement mirroring the artist’s play with motion and stillness. Oil Workers (from the Shell company of Nigeria) returning home from work, caught in torrential rain (2013) reconstructs a found image of men taking shelter under a bridge as a torrential downpour fills the street with muddy water. Claerbout has reproduced the photograph using 3-D computer technology; the perspective on the men subtly shifts, the effect recalling that of a lenticular postcard. Instead of creating an illusion of minor dynamism, however, Claerbout’s interventions amplify the tableau’s stasis.
In a basement gallery, the computer-generated video Travel (1996–2013) pans through a forest. It’s eerily serene. No wind or critter stirs the leaves. Only silvery water shimmers and trickles with a semblance of life. While Oil Workers experiments with surfaces and exteriors, Travel seems to navigate the interior of a world presented as a still image. But in both, Claerbout uses seductive and sophisticated visual means to evoke a document’s paradoxical ability to both fix past time and animate its beholder’s imagination in the present. —Brian Droitcour
Pictured: David Claerbout: Still from Oil workers (from the Shell company of Nigeria) returning home from work, caught in torrential rain, 2013, single-channel video projection, endless loop. Courtesy Sean Kelly, New York. © David Claerbout.