The Subtle Knife introduces the new year by distorting space and time, accentuating a sense of passage and transition. Enchanting, deliberate, and seemingly boundless, January's Midnight Moment draws us into parallel worlds, challenging our perceptions of reality amidst Times Square—a space of transit and perpetual motion, whether in the plazas or on the subway tracks below.
In The Subtle Knife, Daniel Crooks guides us through a reflective odyssey across time and space. Progressing gradually along an endless railway track, the scenery dissolves into a sequence of continually receding frames, constructing a surreal landscape of alternate realms and endlessly expanding possibilities.
As the camera smoothly maneuvers backward, transitioning between forsaken interiors and vacant railway lines, an infinite chain of mirrored portals diminishes along the receding tracks in the rear-view. These spectral shapes punctuating the shifting horizon evoke the concept of the 'subtle knife'—the blade from Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials series capable of unraveling the fabric of space and time, forging new pathways into alternate universes. The work also pays homage to the phantom ride films of the 1890s and early 1900s, where a camera affixed to the front of a vehicle films the tracks and scenery ahead while the vehicle itself remains unseen. Crooks achieved the impeccably steady tracking shots through a custom-developed motion control system, meticulously stitched together in post-production to form a seamless journey through a composite world.
The Subtle Knife is presented in partnership with Asia Society on the occasion of their inaugural Asia Society Triennial, a festival of art, ideas, and innovation from October 27, 2020 through June 27, 2021.