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Crooks’ Panoramic, Time-Fixated, Videos

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Installation of Daniel Crooks' Persistence of Vision,  At Cross Purposes, In My Beginning Is My End, and for( ; ; ){} at Starkwhite. Photo: Sam Hartnett Installation of Daniel Crooks' At Cross Purposes, and In My Beginning Is My End at Starkwhite. Photo: Sam Hartnett Installation of Daniel Crooks' At Cross Purposes, In My Beginning Is My End and for( ;; ){} at Starkwhite. Photo: Sam Hartnett Installation of Daniel Crooks' The Subtle Knife at Starkwhite. Photo: Sam Hartnett Installation of Daniel Crooks' Vanishing Point and The Subtle Knife at Starkwhite. Photo: Sam Hartnett Daniel Crooks, for( ;; ){}, 2016, still, 3.25 mins infinite loop. Daniel Crooks, for( ;; ){}, 2016, still, 3.25 mins infinite loop. Daniel Crooks, The Subtle Knife, 2016, still, 8.23 mins infinite loop Daniel Crooks, Vanishing Point, 2016, still, 8.23 mins infinite loop Daniel Crooks, Vanishing Point, 2016, still, 8.23 mins infinite loop Daniel Crooks, Vanishing Point, 2016, still, 8.23 mins infinite loop Daniel Crooks, Persistence of Vision, 2016, still, 1.23 mins infinite loop Daniel Crooks, At Cross Purposes, 2016, still, 5.23 mins infinite loop Daniel Crooks, In My Beginning Is My End, 2016, still, 5.23 mins infinite loop Daniel Crooks, In My Beginning Is My End, 2016, still, 5.23 mins infinite loop Daniel Crooks, In My Beginning Is My End, 2016, still, 5.23 mins infinite loop

Of the six recent video works showing downstairs at Starkwhite, using film shot at the same time as Phantom Ride, about half are connected to railway tracks and portals. Many are like experiments between 'An Embroidery of Voids' and 'Phantom Ride', testing out portal proportions, different vistas, and the use of railway or tram lines. They seem to immerse the body of the viewer, washed over by the overarching telescoping portals that they sequentially enter or leave.

Auckland

 

Daniel Crooks
Vanishing Point

 

3 August - 27 August 2016

Daniel Crooks attracted a lot of admirers eight years ago in Christchurch through Everywhere Instantly, a spectacular exhibition organised by curator Justin Paton using custom-built architecture, and which did not travel anywhere else. However a few years later in Auckland Crooks also had an impressive (much smaller) ‘taster’ show at Two Rooms, and now he is presenting seven new video works at Starkwhite.

Before we discuss these, let’s look a little further at Crooks’ exhibiting history in Auckland, and the importance of An Embroidery of Voids, shown as part of the Chartwell Collection A World Undone show, put together by curator Stephen Cleland at Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki in late 2014. That innovative Crooks’ work featured square concentric portals (entrances to other separately filmed, telescopically positioned, urban-scape ‘universes’) presented on a z-axis - and not on x- and y-axes as in his previous digitally-collaged, gridded projects. The viewer slowly moved forward, passing through these portals, advancing along a sequence of various high-walled dwellings and fenced off alleyways of Melbourne. The fact that it was a projection on a large wall, not a video on a plasma screen, made it especially bodily immersive.

Crooks’ more recent video installation, Phantom Ride, an Ian Potter Moving Image Commission for the ACMI shown in Melbourne early this year, featured a double-sided screen and cinematography that - instead of following pedestrian lanes - moved along abandoned railway tracks, usually surrounded by flat farmland in Victoria. Apart from the fact that future and past (advancing and disappearing pastoral imagery) were now depicted on separate sides of a suspended screen, the proportions of the portal had radically changed.

The earlier wider portal, despite passing along lanes between the sides of buildings or fences, had a sense of panorama (because of the ‘squatness’ and horizontal weight of the square), whereas with the newer ‘train track’ work, the portal is narrower and serves as a doorway that hovers vertically above the gauge of the receding railway line. Oddly the viewer’s peripheral vision (of the open fields) is not as dominant, due to the more intense ‘beckoning’ or ‘departing’ effect of the moving oblongs, the dominance of their vertical sides that stay in view until they reach the ends of the screen, their impact depending also on their distance apart.

Of the six recent video works showing downstairs at Starkwhite, using film shot at the same time as Phantom Ride, about half are connected to railway tracks and portals. Many are like experiments between An Embroidery of Voids and Phantom Ride, testing out portal proportions, different vistas and the use of railway or tram lines. They seem to immerse the body of the viewer, washed over by the overarching telescoping portals that they sequentially enter or leave.

for( ;; ){} is related to Embroidery of Voids with its wide square portals and urban ambience, but it has a subtle staggered shunting movement that while mostly advancing, when passing through each portal, retreats backwards a few yards before readvancing. You are definitely moving forward but entering each (barely detectable) portal nudges you backwards a little - before you start to regain ground.

The Subtle Knife on the other hand has narrow vertical portals like Phantom Ride, often with several at once spread across the panorama, while the movement progresses backwards through railway workshops, landscapes with curved white tanks, expansive grasslands and servicing yards. Some of the slender portals turn at oblique angles where they are attached to a railway turntable (wheelhouse). They (in pairs) swivel around as you continue backing away. The reversing implies a going back in time, and a use of memory to recount an experience travelling through landscape.

Vanishing Point features reflection, in the form of a ‘glass’ picture-plane through which you look ahead through triple exposures while also seeing (via a subtle ‘mirroring’) images that seem to come from behind your shoulder. The various landscape vistas rush towards you as you advance, and no portals of any type are visible, just multiple pastoral vistas that blurrily overlap. These vistas gradually change in emphasis so that one image becomes slightly more dominant than the others; they shift in tonal accentuation. The cross-section of the video monitor’s surface seems to symbolise the never-static or containable ‘present’. 

Persistence of Vision is more directly about space: gallery space and illusionary depth. Its outer edges advance towards the viewer’s body, perspectival vectors splaying out through two alternating layers of horizontal bands. These feature yellow girders and blue concrete columns in huge hangars that are also seen intact in The Subtle Knife. The ongoing camera movement causes coloured ripples from the chopped up struts and columns to pull the viewer’s eye towards the retreating apex, and becomes more dramatic when you stand well back.

At Cross Purposes features streaky elongated branches slanted askew against a blue sky on a vertical screen.  Diagonally split, the top righthand half moves up to the top lefthand corner while the bottom lefthand half descends to the bottom righthand edges. The composition slowly straightens and strut-like fingers from opposite sides emerge to gradually meet in the centre, realigning to then become a narrow vertical bridge/railway track/shimmering cattle stop. The rapid changes in this video make it especially dramatic and memorable. Many of the other videos are experienced as slower moving and more subtle.

In My Beginning is My End is a vertical patch of sky lined with buckled branches, seen while looking up at a bridge from below. The bent trees cascade downwards and then slowly reverse direction in their streaming boughs, while parallel railway tracks appear at their edges, gradually expanding outwards to form a wider gauge.

This mixture of six videos, all carefully positioned in a sequence, make this a special show. The same panoramic images sometimes briefly reappear in adjacent works, so you occasionally get the sense that the exhibition is really one big installation with six parts. It’s wonderful work that surprises because (unlike earlier projects) there are no moving humans anywhere. Crooks is exploring new ideas. A treat.

John Hurrell

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