An Embroidery of Voids - Rebecca Ward

Chartwell Acquisition Notes: Rebecca Ward/Rob Gardiner 2014

Daniel Crooks

Static No.16 (fisher-yates shuffle), 2010, edition of 3. HD Blu-ray video, 16:9, colour, stereo sound, 4min 33sec, acquired 2010.

An Embroidery of Voids, 2013, edition of 3, AP1, single-channel digital video, 16:9, colour, stereo sound, 19min 23sec, acquired 2014.

New Zealand-born Daniel Crooks lives in Melbourne and his video work Static No.16 (fisher-yates shuffle) was acquired in 2010 from Anna Schwartz Gallery during the Melbourne Art Fair. Crooks deconstructs a foreign city scene, so that fragments of buildings, people, and advertisements are sliced together into an unfamiliar landscape. This method is reminiscent of the painterly history of cubism and abstraction; what makes Static No.16 interesting is it uses these processes in a different, contemporary medium. Crooks stretches the ‘real’ time of the video, so that every frame is sliced into a digital collage. This video captures an audiences’ time and attention; we are left wondering about Crooks’ technique as we search for recognisable fragments within the urban collage. The title of the work offers a clue into Crooks’ method. The Fisher-Yates Shuffle is an algorithm for randomly yet equally shuffling a predetermined set of items. This mathematical system provided Crooks with a way to structure how the components of Static No.16 were combined and seen by the audience. Video artworks have a sense of immediacy because of their movement and ability to interact with a wide-ranging audience who recognise and engage with video technology on a day to day basis. A work like Static No.16 is an important addition to the Chartwell Collection as Crooks’ ingenious and technical skill heightens the audiences’ level of enquiry and permits a different video experience.

An Embroidery of Voids, acquired from Anna Schwartz gallery in Melbourne in 2014, is the second work of Crooks’ in the Chartwell Collection. It was a central commissioned work in the large Melbourne Now exhibition at the NGV over the summer of 2013/14 installed as a projection in a darkened room on its own. Melbourne Now traced current creative production in the city from architecture, urban and product design, experiential installations and contemporary art practices. Voids is a slow-moving, steady paced video collage which situates the viewer to transit through various lanes and in-between spaces which unfold in sequence. The laneway is an icon of Melbourne’s city life and while it was clear this work was made in Melbourne and presented first to a Melbourne audience, it was obvious that it had wider appeal to a general public- a sense that this could be anywhere. In fact, the laneway is used as a perspectival, compositional devise to direct the viewers gaze into a labyrinth of continually changing spaces. It was like a sequenced patchwork of perspectival paintings unfolding in moving image as the shift from picture to space is carefully choreographed. Unlike a previous work, A Garden of Parallel Paths, which scanned the eye horizontally across a range of spliced laneway entrances moving from right to left, An Embroidery of Voids plunges the viewer into a singular laneway and the slicing/collaging occurs as you weave through the laneways themselves. There is a feeling of expectation as each laneway draws nearer; just as you expect to reach the end point, the vanishing point, the image blends into the next space. This blending/collaging is done to often contrast one space (all empty of people) with another – creating a visual play with the pattern and designs of the surrounding walls for example that enclose the spaces on each side; as architectural space comes together with filmic space, you move through garden to industrial iron work, from old brick to smooth concrete, from light to dark, from enclosed to open, from horizontal to vertical fencing. Ultimately, it ends with a black central rectangle (itself in actuality a black painted fence gate) as if we had journeyed through a history of landscape, still life, cityscape and skyscape paintings and discovered at the end...the void.

Voids transfixes you as you tunnel through these collaged spaces and in fact, it was noted at the time of viewing in Melbourne Now that audiences’ attention was captured, spending a lot of time watching the work – often a challenge for video works- but the intrigue created, through a sense of unfolding, as one space becomes another, lent itself to prolonged viewing. Like Static No.16, Voids invites an audience to spend time engaging and analysing the video medium and techniques used. The admission of this work into the collection builds on the representation of Crooks’ practice and allows the public to follow his technical and conceptual developments.