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David Claerbout

KING (after Alfred Wertheimer’s 1956 picture of a young man named Elvis Presley) 

Prolonged until 2 February 2021





Silent, black and white projection, based on a photograph in a book that marks the transition from ordinary life to superstardom of Elvis Presley, then aged 21.
That week in 1956, Wertheimer portrayed a young man who generously returns every shot the camera takes with an incredible calm, allowing the photographer to come very close and feel at ease with a ‘body’ that will soon transition from casual to monumental.
It is at this intersection that KING has been conceived.

In this animation (3D), the reconstructed head and body of Elvis have been textured using fragments of hundreds of original photographs of Elvis’ skin and features, allowing the camera to come in a close-up of one of the world’s most charismatic figures.
This reconstructed picture has been produced in a world without a lens (just a virtual lens), but it is based on photograph taken in a world where having a lens in front of Elvis still eqed the proximity to that holy body.
To cut a corner short : a world without lenses is a world of pure concepts, severed from the world where uncontrollable things happen. It is the world of control which we are moving into, and it means living with the heavy burden of having to set-up everything in the field of the picture, and by extension in human perception. 

It is hard to ignore the changes that took place between 1950’s modernity, a time in which we still believed everything the camera told us (the time of youthful Elvis) and today’s reconstruction of that belief system. 

“Interface” seems to be today’s keyword, a provider of just enough freedom, or a means of just enough control. Interface determines where the fences stand, beyond which there is no access. Interface is today what the picture fame was yesterday. 

The conservatism that speaks from the composition (the dark interior, people, and attributes) and half naked freshness that speaks form young Elvis, got me interested. I tried to show the relation between control and conservatism with Elvis – his skin- serving as the protective saint, once again. 

David Claerbout 
KING (after Alfred Wertheimer’s 1956 picture of a young man named Elvis Presley), 2015-2016
single channel video projection, HD animation, black & white, silent, 10 min.

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David  Claerbout 
King drawing (The table is King, study for) , 2015-2017
66,5 x 102 cm
washed ink, felt pen, and collage on paper, framed
unique

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David Claerbout 
KING (Elvis’ Back), 2016
90 x 160 cm
inkjet print on RAG photographic paper 310 mg/m2 on diasec and dibond 
Edition of 6

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Online exhibition
12 January  – 21 January 2021