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Sint Nicolaasplaats / Lange nieuwstraat 3 

In the gothic Chapel of St. Nicolas (1422), David Claerbout (°1969, Kortrijk) presents Wildfire (meditation on fire) (2019-2020). Looking at the increasingly devastating forest fires spread across the globe, this masterpiece feels more contemporary than ever. The relevance of this work withing the context of FINIS TERRAE seems quite straightforward. However, the video-installation contains more than meets the eye. Images of a lush idyllic green forest, slowly turn into dramatic, almost hypnotic still images of devastating flames. Projected on a large free-standing screen in the chapel of St. Nicolas, the work almost seems to absorb the viewer into its hellish landscape.

Biological programming, still existent in today’s living creatures dictates a reflex to stay far away from fire that cannot be contained (for example wildfire). A ‘meditation on fire’ may therefore sound like an impossibility.  

Although the images look very realistic, they were not shot on location or even photographed, but they were made using 3D computer techniques. The camera has been removed and disintegrated into a numerical system of binary codes. It confronts the biological and the digital. Long shots of silenced fire appropriate the notion of biological breathing time, providing a mediative character to the video, while at the same time, the movie is merely a technological abstraction. The viewer is confronted with an illusion of an image, a hallucination, a visual construct of computing. These images create an immersive experience of the otherwise un-experienceable. 



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