David Claerbout: OLYMPIA

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

As part of LOOP Barcelona, the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya is showing David Claerbout’s thousand-year-long video simulation Olympia. For the duration of LOOP (18–27 May), Olympia will be streamed live here on artreview.com


Olympia is a computer-generated replica of the Olympic Stadium in Berlin, in which the stadium is seen in a time and space devoid of human intervention, subject instead to the cycles of nature. Following Nazi architect Albert Speer’s original architectural theory, in which the stadium’s own decay has been pre-incorporated into its design, Olympia simulates, in real-time, the slow decay of the building and the growth of vegetation around it.

Using software based on video game engines, Olympia uses the familiar first-person perspective of videogaming, but lacks the possibility of human intervention or live action; only elements of weather and time have an impact on the building.

From minute to minute and hour to hour, the computer program calculates the exact precipitation, weather and seasonal conditions in Berlin, based on available data feeds. Trees and vegetation will gradually occupy more of the view of the stadium, until they obscure it completely. 
Since March 15, 2016, when the simulation started, building details and vegetation have changed considerably.

Olympia can be regarded as an attempt to measure biological duration (for example, the timespan of one human life) against ideological duration.

 The waiting inherent to Olympia is overly-stretched for any one beholder. To live with the piece is an experience marked by the meditative effect of seeing actual time pass in an environment that is both real and unreal, while being forced to experience personal duration in relationship to a much larger volume of time.



The Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya presentation of Olympia is an initiative of the Han Nefkens Foundation in collaboration with LOOP Festival