Parasol unit, London, 2016 (Photography by Jack Hems, courtesy of Parasol unit foundation for contemporary art)

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

2015-2016, single channel video projection, black & white, silent, HD animation, 10 min

KING (after Alfred Wertheimer’s 1956 picture of a young man names Elvis Presley), a silent black-and-white projection, is based on a photograph that marks Elvis Presley’s transition from ordinary life to superstardom. That week in 1956, photographer Alfred Wertheimer portrayed a young man, then 21, who generously returned every shot  with an incredible calm, allowing the photographer to come very close and feel at ease with a ‘body’ that would soon transition from casual to monumental. It is at this intersection that KING has been conceived.

The reconstructed image has been produced in a world without a physical lens (only a virtual lens!). However, its foundation lies in a photograph taken in a world where the presence of a lens in front of Elvis still eqed the proximity to that holy body. A lens-free world represents a realm of pure concepts, severed from the world where uncontrollable things happen. Moving into this lens-free world implies a shift towards control, necessitating the meticulous setup of everything within the picture's field and, by extension, in human perception. It is hard to ignore the chnages that took place between 1950s modernity, a time when there was an absolute trust in everything the camera presented, to today’s reconstruction of that belief system. The composition that speaks from the composition, conveyed by the dark interior, people, and attributes, with the half-naked freshness that speaks from young Elvis, captivated my interest. I tried to show the relation between control and conservatism with Elvis - his skin - serving as the protective saint, once again.  

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David Claerbout ©2024