The exhibition "Bullet Time" showcases the artistic endeavors of two New Zealand video artists, Daniel Crooks and Steve Carr, who skillfully manipulate the concept of time. Placing them within the historical framework of motion studies pioneers Eadweard Muybridge (1830–1904) and Harold Edgerton (1903–90), the exhibition acknowledges their roles as precursors, influencers, and reference points. In doing so, it delves into the intricate history of the interplay between science and art, photography and cinema, technology and consciousness, as well as thought and emotion.
The exhibition's title is derived from the cinematic special effect popularized by The Matrix (1999). In the film's 'bullet time' sequences, a series of still cameras surrounding a subject are fired simultaneously or nearly simultaneously. When compiled into a movie, these shots provide an orbiting view of the subject, creating the illusion of being either magically frozen in time or moving in super-slow motion, disrupting our conventional understanding of space and time.
The bullet-time effects in The Matrix pay homage to Eadweard Muybridge's pioneering work. In the nineteenth century, there was a heated debate about whether a horse's hooves all leave the ground at once during its gait—a phenomenon too swift for the naked eye to discern. Leland Stanford, a former Californian Governor, railways magnate, and racehorse breeder, enlisted Muybridge, an already renowned photographer, to settle the matter. Using a bank of cameras with fast shutters triggered by trip wires, Muybridge successfully captured a series of images showcasing a horse in full stride, conclusively proving the theory of 'unsupported transit.' These images fundamentally altered our perception of horses and paved the way for the development of cinema.
Daniel Crooks, based in Melbourne, draws inspiration from Muybridge and slit-scan photography employed in racetrack photofinishes for his Time Slice works. These pieces also allude to the metaphors used to explain relativity. Crooks skillfully distorts time and space by rearranging fragments of digital video information in various ways, transforming our familiar world into something otherworldly and beautiful. Simultaneously, his work highlights the contingency of our everyday perceptions.