The return of time

James Robertson

Daniel Crooks' Time Slice

Daniel Crooks' Time Slice

Two recent shows at the Centre for Contemporary Photography explored the way time and space are constructed and mediated by photography and video. Daniel Crooks’ Time Slice, an extensive instalment of video and print works, challenged the traditional logic of the photographic still and the video sequence, blurring both the enclosed frame and the succession of multiple frames. The momentary pause of the photo is widened and the continuity of the video is disrupted, edited, literally making more or less time, more or less space.
Crooks’ digital printouts Train No.1 & 2 rework an understanding of landscape. Over 3 metres across, they show time-lapse collapsing into elongated stills that scan multiple zones along railway lines. They are panoramas, but of varying speeds recording the push and pull of the city. A stationary camera is put in opposition to a tracking one. Static No. 1 is a more psychedelic spread. Against a warped backdrop of horizontal lines and jammed magazines and posters stand people, vertical, just recognisable. There are bodies as waves, bodies carrying the extent of their journey within their own skin, and bodies as modulating blobs. Figure and ground seem to rush across each other in separate directions. In the video Static No. 5 there is a similar frenetic quality, in this case a photograph becomes animated, a violent cutting and pasting constitutes movement. Crooks creates a kaleidoscope or rather the scope to collide.

This transfers vertically well with works like Elevator No. 1, one of the most abstracted works, depicting a graphic falling, the apparent velocity turning an elevator shaft to flowing ribbons. In Elevator No.3 a whole building is morphed, levels contract, storeys expand. Even architecture is subjected to a radical ride. Elevator No.4 has the most ‘special effect’ though, where a lift door becomes a liquid peeling, the metal door unzipping itself to allow fluid, drunken figures to enter and exit.

The theme of motion in art was vigorously pursued early last century by the avant-garde, whether it was Duchamp’s descendent Nude, the Italian Futurist Balla’s attempts in paint or El Lizzitsky’s early photomontages. Crooks’ work in part carries this kind of energy, what Paul Virilio would call kinematic‚ as people and vehicles begin to flare, shunt, refract, becoming unhinged at the intersection of time and space. Crooks puts forth a poetics of public transport, using tramcars and train carriages, perfect units to play with at the junction of time and space. The artist’s work has a scientific methodology, the various videos and prints the outcome of invention. The data is both evidence of process and finalised works, thus they travel well.

If Crooks’ work is experimental then Jo Scicluna’s is experiential. A more packaged, measured and scaled work, the viewer encounters Scicluna’s timespace 04: timelapse 2002 behind a black curtain, a darkened room lending the work a more intimate, even cinematic reception. All is silent. Both artists at the CCP choosing to deal with time and space in purely visual terms with an absence of sound. Perhaps because the sonic would allow the viewer to ascertain another sense of time, a tempo or rhythm.

Scicluna’s work is in triptych with a single projection divided into equal frames, side by side. The first screen on the left shows a clock, cropped to hang above an undisclosed space. It is LCD perhaps, more digital than analogue yet it flickers, counts illegibly. Not counting down but away. The middle screen shows an entrance to a busy building, a revolving doorway, with suits coming and going, a security camera angle on fast forward. Or an escalator, its metal steps producing a dizzying, blurred optical effect. Or a lift with its floor by floor sequence. These are mechanised, automated yet unreliable vehicles. The final screen shows the face of a clock tower, a Warhol-like fixed shot in slow motion. An almost blank countenance: is it moving at all? The clock format of hours: minutes: seconds is echoed in the screen layout of real time: fast forward: slow motion. The viewer confronted with 3 different representations of time simultaneously is made to feel anxiety: panic: boredom. The work challenges the viewer’s sense of time and how it is shaped.

The work asks questions, positing an ever-increasing corporate time (time is money) against an outdated and outmoded State/Municipal time with an individual’s personal time being caught between the two. Vito Acconci, witnessing this paradigm shift, noted, “There was no need anymore for time to be installed on the street; no need for time to be set in place where you happened by, when all the while you were on your own time. Public time was dead; there wasn’t time anymore for public space; public space was the next to go” (“Public Space in a Private Time”, WJT Mitchell ed., Art and The Public Sphere, University of Chicago Press, Chicago and London,1990).

As an act of resistance and an adjunct of this, the last instalment of the timespace series by Scicluna, was her use of a still from the digitised clock made into stickers and applied to street surfaces in Melbourne and Vienna. These were then re-photographed. The stickers challenge the specifics of site as it were, they are ‘stuck’ in time in various places, proposing the artwork could possibly exist ‘anywhere’ but not at ‘anytime’.

Both Crooks and Scicluna use interventionist strategies in their art (posed, timely) being directly reinserted into life’s flow (chaotic, unconscious). And real time and real world variables are bought to bear in the so often atemporal assertion of gallery space offering some exciting and stimulating alternatives, both paused and at high speed.

Daniel Crooks‚ Time Slice, Jo Scicluna timespace 04: timelapse 2002, Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne June 14-July 6.

RealTime issue #51 Oct-Nov 2002 pg. 27

© James Robertson; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

1 October 2002