Bad-boy cool

By GREG COOK  |  March 24, 2008

In The Stack (2002), the sun crosses behind a tangle of elevated roads, shining on dirt and debris below and occasionally spotlighting a sleeping man hidden in foreground shadows. An old photo of a lobby of a modern building fills the foreground of Shadow Piece (2005). Claerbout uses special effects to add footage of people outside approaching the doors and trying to get in. They are locked out of the photo, the past; we are locked inside.

Other videos seem almost completely motionless. Kindergarteners are forever still, standing outside in a plaza, even as two trees rustle in the wind. Four people stand frozen outside some building. A cracked-up airplane hangs above a lush Vietnamese valley. The effect can be frustrating and tedious — intentionally so — but at Claerbout’s best the videos become odd, dislocating meditations on photography, light, memory, and time.

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