David Claerbout

Kortijk Belgium 1969, lives and works in Antwerp

Olympia (The real time disintegration into ruins of the Berlin Olympic stadium over the course of a thousand years)
video projection, color, no sound, based on real-time computer simulation, HD animation


This video work shows the deterioration of the structure in Berlin in which the 1936 Olympics were held, a building fraught with historical significance. The work alludes to a bleak period in German history, when Hitler was in power and was developing megalomaniacal architectural projects with his chief architect Albert Speer.
When envisaging their plans, the two men already gave consideration to the ‘ruin value’ that a building would have a thousand years later. The remains of the Third Reich were then to be at least as impressive as Rome’s Colosseum is today. Because of this Speer became known as the ‘ruin builder’, a somewhat dubious nickname for an architect. With the aid of digital game technology, Claerbout shows us the course of this process in ‘real time’, in any case for the twenty-five years after the year in which the work was finished. Just how this art project will continue after that depends on technological developments and on whether anyone is prepared to assume responsibility for it at that point. The idea does appeal to the imagination in a powerful way: what will the stadium look like in a half-collapsed state, overgrown by weeds and bushes? The decay occurs so slowly, however, that a museum visitor cannot possibly observe this. From this point of view, even a human lifetime would be too short.