For Present, his first computer-based work, Belgian artist David Claerbout offers the viewer a choice of three flowers--a pink amaryllis, a yellow gerbera or a red rose--to download and install on a computer. Instead of a table top skull or hourglass, reminders of mortality, the fragility of life, and the vanity of existence popularized during the Renaissance, Claerbout gives us a different kind of memento mori, this time for our virtual desktop. The flower begins in a full, glorious bloom and progresses to full decay. Its specific passing interjects a sense of organic time into a digital environment where aging and death are most closely approximated by obsolescence.
With Present, the artist again questions perception of time in relation to a medium. Once it is implanted onto the user's hard drive, the flower manifests the rhythms of a natural lifecycle in an environment where time normally lacks organic reference. The video footage used for the project was shot over a period of time equal to each flower's lifespan; whenever the icon is clicked, the flower shows itself in a light appropriate to the local time. Not only is the flower's duration unknown in advance, but since one cannot speed forward nor go backward, one is forced to view the flower in the real-time progression of its natural cycle.
NOTE: produced in 2000, the project no longer may be downloaded to mac osx computers