Backwards Growing Tree, 2023

single channel  video projection, colour, stereo sound, 5 years

Backwards Growing Tree
is a digital rendering of a solitary tree in the countryside near Salsomaggiore Terme in the Italian province of Parma. Meticulously crafted by hand, the tree is observed over a period of 5 years.

In an endeavor to defy the unidirectional flow of time, Backwards Growing Tree acts as a mirror. Much like the reflection in a looking glass, the natural processes in Backwards Growing Tree are reversed.  Yet, remarkably, the fundamental laws of nature remain impervious to this temporal inversion: whether the wind is blowing in reverse or forward, whether rain falls up or down, and whether clouds progress backward or forward, our perception remains unaltered, demanding a deeper, more contemplative engagement with the artwork. It is only by observing Backwards Growing Tree over time that we can truly grasp an intimate understanding of it, resonating with the rhythmic cadence of our own breathing bodies. 

Backwards Growing Tree
builds upon David Claerbout's fascination with real-time virtual image making, following his earlier work, Olympia… (2016), and delves deeper into the time-based aspects inherent to this medium. This synthesis of past and future beckons us to confront a fundamental aspect of our existence: the tree's regression to a more youthful state challenges our deeply ingrained concept of time, inexorably linked with the notion of loss.

In keeping with Claerbout's oeuvre, Backwards Growing Tree brings the tree motif to the forefront, rejecting its conventional role as a mere backdrop and elevating it to the status of the lead character. For viewers expecting a conclusive revelation or epiphany at the culmination of their journey, an unexpected twist awaits – the tree ultimately vanishes, uprooting the very foundation of all future growth. 

Backwards Growing Tree
invites reflection on the intricacies of time, and those of the digital realm.

Further readings

David Claerbout ©2024