Olympia (The real time disintegration into ruins of the Berlin Olympic stadium over the course of a thousand years)

start 2016, two channel real-time projection, color, silent, HD animation, 1000 years
(with support from VAF Vlaams Audiovisueel Fonds)


Olympia is a computer-generated replica of the Olympic Stadium in Berlin, which finds itself in a time-space devoid of human intervention and entrusted to the cycles of nature. Following the original 'ruinenwert' theory, in which the stadium’s own decay has been pre-incorporated, Olympia invokes a cycle of creation to dissolution by the slow force of nature.

Although the human element has been removed, it is re-introduced through the work’s synchronicity with our own life cycle.

Olympia can be regarded as an attempt to measure biological duration against imaginary duration. By 'biological duration' we can understand the lifespan of a human being, and by 'imaginary duration' we can understand ideological time: the illusion to witness one thousand years.

The waiting inherent to Olympia is a stretch for any one beholder visiting an exhibition, but to live with the piece is an experience marked by the meditative effect of seeing actual time pass in an environment that is unreal, while experiencing personal duration in relationship to a much larger volume of time.

The software used is based on a so-called game-engine. Olympia shares the same tools of many first-person shooting games, but is conceptually far more complex. Lacking the possibility of human intervention or live action, only elements of weather and growing vegetation have an impact on the building, in which each stone is in its exact original place thanks to the unique photographic scanning technique that was used. For Claerbout, the stones represent the soldiers in an army, and had to be reproduced as precisely as national socialism wanted them to be perceived.

From season to season, year after year, we can observe the growth of weeds “irrigated” by the computer program that calculates the exact precipitation, weather and seasonal conditions in Berlin. Trees and vegetation will gradually occupy more of the view towards the stadium until eclipsing it completely. To prioritise the 'backdrop' (nature) over 'foreground' (human) hints to the recurring theme of anti- anthropocentrism since Claerbout's early work. 
Since the work was premiered, building details and vegetation have changed considerably, as illustrated by an archive system that gathers thousands of stills, captured since the program went live on march 15, 2016.

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David Claerbout ©2018