Artist Profile: Daniel Crooks

Written by: Fiona Gruber
When Daniel Crooks was a film student at VCA in the 1990s, he filled his bedroom with old TVs. The local Northcote tip sold obsolete sets for a dollar and he’d take them home and play around with their capabilities. ‘It’s amazing what you can do with a magnet, he quips; “the only problem was, my room also got really hot.”’
The New Zealand born artist is best known for his video installations, photography and sculpture, works that manipulate space, time and motion. Images are broken down frame by frame, divided into slivers, run forwards and backwards and are, in many ways, treated like physical materials.
Our conversation takes place while he’s busy putting the finishing touches to a sculpture that will form part of the Tarrawarra Museum of Art Biennial 2021, which opens at the end of March.
It’s not an easy piece to imagine, as its inspiration comes from gaming technology and involves 3D computer-generated slivers of parts of Crooks’ body.
“It’s a self-portrait essentially,” he explains, with images he describes as wafers of his legs and arms recorded on camera when he walked back and forth through a 1200mm square “capture area”. These images, recorded at 60 frames a second, translate time into space, with slices in widths of a 10th of a mm.
The result will be a four-metre tall sculpture made from 1200 pieces of plywood.
As a child he says he was a “geometry nerd” and divided his time between science, maths and art.
Alongside a fascination for the work of pioneering 19th century photographer Eadweard Muybridge and his studies of motion, a primary school teacher introduced him to taking and developing photographs and one Christmas, Crooks had an epiphany.
“He made a Christmas card of him and his wife, using multiple exposure in their lounge room, so there were several versions of them in different spots and that was mind-blowing for me,” he says.
When Crooks moved to Melbourne in 1994 he planned it as a stepping-stone on the way to New York. But he never left.
He doesn’t regret his change of plan but is rueful about missing the Times Square Arts’ Midnight Moment, which plays video art at midnight on ad space. His work “The Subtle Knife” was being shown throughout January, an artwork using images of railways and symbols of travel and transition to explore ideas of time and a linear reality.
It echoes another work, Phantom Ride (2016), a collaged video journey along Australia’s railways, made after winning the $100,000 Ian Potter moving image commission from the Australian Centre for the Moving Image in 2014.
Crooks’ work frequently pushes against the limitations of technology. He says the tools he wants haven’t been invented yet.
“I keep banging on about the reality scanner, a volumetric capture of everything that has a level of resolution, like the real world,” he says.
But alongside this, he’s relishing exploring the older technology involved in creating a tangible object in the round. The sculpture at the Tarrawarra Biennial is such a work.
“I wanted to get back to the real physical world,” he explains; “it’s great to move round a real object. And I’ve wanted to work in 3D for ages.”
Tarrawarra Biennial 2021, Slow Moving Waters is on between March 27th and July 11th.