Daniel Crooks takes what we know about time and space, disrupts it, and gives it back to us pieced together in a different order. The effect is truly mesmerising, and his works have rightly distinguished him as one of the leading contemporary artists working in moving image today. Gillian Brown, curator of Crooks’ survey exhibition at the Anne & Gordon Samstag Museum of Art, says of his work: “Time is Daniel’s medium, almost physical in his hands as he works with it as a special dimension, there to be bent, stretched and cut.”
This exhibition focuses on the Time Slice series, an ongoing research project since 1999 that has seen his methodology develop from experimental techniques of self-made panning camera-heads, to combinations of more advanced technology including stop-motion animation, time lapse, and precision camera motion control. He uses these techniques to work outside of real time – a notion that is complex to consider, but mastered by Crooks with beautiful simplicity. As Brown explains, “Each advancement of technology, Daniel embraces; in some ways we are seeing the available equipment playing catch up with his imagination to give us richer, deeper colours, clarity of detail, and a more immersive experience overall.”
Early works from the Time Slice series, such as Train no. 1 (2005) takes elements of Melbourne’s urban landscape and redistributes motion and sound into a new fragmented yet continuous channel. More recent works focus on individual people or events. Static no. 12 (seek stillness in movement) (2009-10) creates a metaphor for what Crooks aims to express with his work, through the simplicity of a scene Crooks stumbled across by chance: a man practicing Tai Chi in a Shanghai park. Crooks has slowed and rearranged the sequence of Tai Chi movements to the point that parts of the image become stretched, others compressed, and the figure becomes extended over the horizontal plane of the screen in time-warped, illusory motion. Part of the title of the work, ‘seek stillness in movement’ reflects the tenth commandment of Tai Chi and is a perfect correlation to Crooks’ approach to the redistribution of temporal and spatial dimensions.
Presenting this exhibition in collaboration with the Adelaide Film Festival gives Crooks’ work a point of reference in the broader context of moving image, and challenges audiences that are more used to viewing cinema. In contrast to traditional film, Crooks breaks apart the linear arrow of time and the conventional role of representational space as a seamless supporting entity. By doing this he suggests new ways of seeing and perceiving our familiar, everyday surroundings, turning them into hypnotic scenes where time and space are disjointed and reconstructed in a different rhythm. Evoking qualities of experimental film pioneers such as Eadweard Muybridge and Etienne-Jules Marey, Crooks’ work could be considered a contemporary reflection of these influential works, shifting the focus from the medium of moving image to the medium of time itself.
The exhibition also includes a new site-specific work which allows Crooks to experiment further with extending his work into new iterations within the gallery space. “What is effectively one screen will be concertinaed into the gallery space, and the spatial quality of time as handled by Daniel will come to the fore; as we navigate the folds as viewers, the slippages and overlaps of bent time become tangible, traceable with our footsteps”, says Brown.
Daniel Crooks asks complex questions of one of the most ingrained concepts of our existence: are there other ways of perceiving the world? Do we only exist in one of many possible temporal planes? His work pulls open a portal of time and space, to question spatial temporal representations and provide stillness within motion. He manages to take the fast paced contemporary life that we live in and transform it into a space for inner reflection, stillness, and deep contemplation: an experience we do not often find the time for ourselves.
Anne & Gordon Samstag Museum of Art
10 October to 20 December, 2013
Static No. 12 (seek stillness in movement) (detail), 2009, high definition digital video transferred to Blu-ray, 16:9, colour, sound, 5 minutes 23 seconds
Static No. 19 (shibuya rorschach) (detail), 2012, single-channel high definition digital video, 16:9, colour, sound, 6 minutes 3 seconds
Courtesy the artist and Anna Schwartz Gallery