Claerbout studied at Nationaal Hoger Instituut voor Schone Kunsten, Antwerp from 1992-1995. He trained as a painter, but became more and more interested in time through investigations in the nature of photography, the still and the moving image (Bergson's duree echoed in Gilles Deleuze Cinema 1 and Cinema 2).
David Claerbout is "best known for large-scale moving and still imagery that deals with the passage of time".
In early works such as Kindergarten Antonio Sant’Elia 1932 made in 1998 and the last in a series, he presents an old, black and white photograph as a large, mute projection.
In Vietnam, 1967, near Duc Pho (Reconstruction after Hiromishi Mine) (2001) time is suspended as an airplane caught by the camera moments before its crash, floats, the sunlight gently moving over a green and hilly landscape. In the book Visible Time, David Green writes: “What one actually experiences or indeed what one sees in this work, is not the conflation of photography and film but, a conjuncture of the two mediums in which neither ever loses its specificity. We are thus faced with a phenomenon in which two different mediums co-exist and seem to simultaneously occupy the same object. The projection screen here provides a point of intersection for both the photographic and filmic image.”
With works such as Villa Corthout (2001) and Piano Player (2002), Claerbout’s work moves towards forms of narratives to describe ‘moments in time’ within the moving image, taking a more cinematic dimension.
In the Bordeaux Piece (2004) actors repeat a given dialogue and a set of given movements, deconstructing cinematic time. It centers on a conversation between a couple that is repeated over and over in different parts of a 1996 Bordeaux house designed by the architect Rem Koolhaas. The piece is in fact a 14 hours film made out of 70 shorter films shot at 10 minutes intervals throughout the day. The narrative slowly collapses, giving way to the movement of the sun over the landscape, architecture and people, thus creating a different temporality. One protagonist is played by Josse De Pauw, who helped Claerbout write the script.
In Sections of a Happy Moment (2007), Claerbout seems to ‘dissect’ a moment in the life of a Chinese family in the courtyard of a nondescript estate. A group of people are gathered around a ball suspended mid-air, all the faces turned towards it, smiling happily. Over the course of 25 minutes, this moment in time is analyzed from a multitude of different angles and perspectives, allowing the viewer an omnipresence that is paradoxical. The fragmentation of time in this piece, through freeze – frames of the same moment, creates 'visible duration'.
In Sunrise (2009), Claerbout presents an 18-minute work in near-darkness, accentuating the dim tones by projecting the film on to a grey surface. For nearly the entire film a housemaid goes about her chores in the muted light of pre-dawn, finally departing the house and cycling through a dimly-lit landscape, accompanied by Sergei Rachmaninoff's Vocalise (1912).
Set on the coastline of Brittany, France, The Quiet Shore (2011) is a 36-minute black-and-white film capturing scenes that range from moments of minute detail to panoramic expanses of coastal landscape. The viewer experiences, frame by frame, a single moment from a multitude of different perspectives and viewpoints.
David Claerbout took part in the DAAD Berlin Artist Program in 2002-2003 and has exhibited in numerous group and solo exhibitions, including the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, where he held a comprehensive solo exhibition (2007–2008) which toured to List Visual Arts Center, Cambridge MA (2008), Kunstmuseum St. Gallen (2008), Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, Vancouver (2008), and De Pont Museum of Contemporary Art, Tilburg (2009). Other solo exhibitions include ‘Diese Sonne strahlt immer’, Vienna Secession (2012); ‘David Claerbout: Architecture of Narrative’, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (2011); ‘The Time That Remains’, WIELS Contemporary Art Centre, Brussels (2011); and ‘uncertain eye’, Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich (2010).
Claerbout is represented by Galerie Micheline Szwajcer, Antwerp, Yvon Lambert Gallery, Paris and Johnen Galerie, Cologne.2002 Kunstverein Hannover, Hanover
2004 Kunstbau im Lehnbachhaus, Munich
2005 Akademie der Künste, 'Background Time – Gezeiten', Berlin
2007 Centre Georges Pompidou, 'David Claerbout', Paris
2008 MIT LIST Visual Arts Center, Cambridge MA
2008 Kunstmuseum St. Gallen, 'After the Quiet', St. Gallen/Switzerland
2008 Belkin Galleries at The University of British Columbia, Vancouver
2008 National Museum of Contemporary Art, Athens
2009 De Pont Museum of Contemporary Art, 'The Shape of Time', Tilburg
2011 Wiels, 'Le temps qui reste', Brussels (Vorst)
2012 MART Museo di arte moderna e contemporanea di Trento e Rovereto
2012 Parasol Unit, ‘the time that remains’, London, England
2012 Secession, ‘Diese Sonne strahlt immer’, Vienna, Austria
2013 Kunsthalle Mainz, Germany
Selected Monographs/ Exhibition Catalogues2008
Van Assche, Christine (ed.), 'The Shape of Time', Zürich: JRP Ringier/Centre Pompidou/MIT List Center of Visual Arts/De Pont Foundation/Kunstmuseum St. Gallen/Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, 2008 (exh.cat.)
National Museum of Contemporary Art (ed.), 'David Claerbout', Athens, 2008 (exh.cat.)2004
Gaensheimer, Susanne, Meschede, Friedrich et al. (ed.), 'David Claerbout', Köln: Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König, 2004 (exh.cat.)
Green, David, Lowry, Joanna, 'Visible Time: The work of David Claerbout', Herbert Read Gallery, Brighton: Photoworks, 2004 (exh.cat.)2003
CGAC Centro Galego de Arte Contemporánea (ed.), 'David Claerbout' [texts by Stephan Berg, Rachel Kushner], Santiago de Compostela, 2003 (exh.cat.)2002
Kunstverein Hannover (ed.), 'David Claerbout', Brussels: A Prior, 2002 (exh.cat.)
Claerbout has been awarded the Prize of the Günther-Peill-Stiftung (2010).Boom (1996)
Single Channel Video Installation, Colour, Silent, 18’44”Ruurlo, Bocurloscheweg 1910 (1997)
Single Channel Video Installation, Black and White, Silent, 10’Kindergarten Antonio Sant’Elia, 1932 (1998)
Single Channel Video Installation, Black and White, Silent, 10’Untitled (Carl and Julia) (2000)
Interactive Video Installation, Black and White, SilentVenice Light Boxes (2000)
4 Light boxes, Cibachrome, Black and WhiteVietnam, 1967, near Duc Pho (Reconstruction after Hiroshimi Mine) (2001)
Video Installation, Colour, Silent, 3’30”Villa Corthout (2001)
5 - Channel Video Installation, Black and White, Mono Sound, 25’The Stack (2002)
Video Installation, Colour, Silent, 36’Piano Player (2002)
Single Channel Video Installation, Colour, Dolby Surround Sound, 7’Rocking Chair (2003)
Double Screen Interactive Video Installation, Black and White, SilentBordeaux Piece (2004)
Single Channel Video Installation, Colour, Dual Mono Sound, 13:43’Shadow Piece (2005)
Single Channel Video Installation, Black and White, Stereo Sound, 30’19”Sections of a Happy Moment (2007)
Single Channel Video Installation, Black and White, Stereo Sound (Random Muzac), 25’57”