ARTISTS Steve Carr, Daniel Crooks, Harold Edgerton, Eadweard Muybridge CURATOR Robert Leonard PUBLICATION text Robert Leonard
Bullet Time showcases the work of two New Zealand video artists who conjure with time—Daniel Crooks and Steve Carr. It places them in the context of two historical photographers, pioneers of motion studies—Eadweard Muybridge (1830–1904) and Harold Edgerton (1903–90)—acknowledging them as precursors, influences, and reference points. In the process, it engages a complex history of interaction between science and art, photography and cinema, technology and consciousness, thought and feeling.
The show’s title comes from the cinema special effect made famous by The Matrix (1999). For this film’s ‘bullet time’ sequences, a series of still cameras surrounding a subject were fired simultaneously or almost simultaneously. Compiled as a movie, the shots offer an orbiting view of the subject, apparently either magically frozen in time or in super-slow motion, messing with our conventional experience of space and time.
The Matrix’s bullet-time effects looked back to the work of Eadweard Muybridge. In the nineteenth century, there was much debate about whether a horse’s hooves all come off the ground at once during its gait. It occurred too fast to see with the naked eye. Former Californian Governor, railways magnate, and racehorse breeder Leland Stanford engaged Muybridge, as an already well-known photographer, to furnish evidence to settle the matter. Using a bank of cameras with fast shutters triggered by trip wires, Muybridge ultimately captured a succession of images of a horse in full stride, proving the theory of ‘unsupported transit’. These images forever changed the way we see horses and heralded the development of the cinema.
Based in Melbourne, Crooks’s Time Slice works look back to Muybridge and to the slit-scan photography used for racetrack photofinishes, and nod to the metaphors we use to explain relativity. Crooks generates bewildering time-space warps by rearranging slivers of digital video information in myriad ways, making our familiar world seem otherworldly and beautiful, while pointing to the contingency of our own everyday perceptions.
At Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in the 1930s, Harold Edgerton pioneered the use of stroboscopic flash photography to study motion. He froze running water, splashes of milk, athletes in action, bullets ripping through balloons, apples, bananas, and playing cards, and exploding atomic bombs. While his work revealed scientific truths, it often had a spectacular, erotic aspect.
Riffing on Edgerton, Carr uses slow-motion to observe bursting paint-filled balloons and bullets tearing open apples, playing up Edgerton’s sublimated abstracted eroticism. While Crooks pioneers new effects, Carr explores familiar ones—cliches. He’s less interested in the scientific aspect than the semiological one. Bullet Time includes his six-channel video installation Transpiration (2014). Filmed in time lapse, white carnations planted in dyed water slowly absorb its hues, blushing with colour.