Amy Croft: ‘A Fog’
24 January - 23 February 2013
Review by Richard Whitby
On entering the gallery, the viewer is faced with a large, square-ish freestanding white wall that bisects the room. At the foot of the wall are a set of Croft’s ‘guidebooks’ for the show - featuring a fragmented text and images of rock formations. From behind the wall comes the glare of a video projector and a soundtrack permeates the gallery. A set of predominantly grey photographic prints hangs on the grey walls (‘GMMX 071000Z 08003KT 040V110 CAVOK 12/02 Q1028 NOSIG’, 2012, - a title taken from a weather report produced at the site and time that the photographs were taken).
The centrepiece is the video ‘grey sky blue’ (2012), projected onto the maroon-painted reverse of the freestanding wall. ‘grey sky blue’ is made up of shots of skies, and shots of a woman moving around a stark interior and posing for close-ups. Punctuated by numbered inter-titles, the video switches from the translucence of clouds, to the extreme opacity of concrete, mirrored walls and the actor’s self-conscious posing. The image shifts within the frame, emphasising the tight, claustrophobic cropping of the camerawork; the woman’s head is sliced by the edge of the frame; black dots of birds and flies arc briefly across the pale blues of the image, and disappear. Rather than the clipped and cropped images, the soundtrack is an almost constant flow of composed incidental ‘noise’, as delicately sutured as the image is ruptured. The sounds of rain, wind on microphones, traffic, creaking wood, sheep and crickets evoke places, but we are never referred to a specific location.
Croft’s formally rigorous but enigmatic exhibition is titled ‘A Fog’. Fog can be an obfuscation - irritating or even dangerous - preventing one from seeing what is within or beyond it. Or it can be a romantic shrouding of the familiar; making it strange once again. Fog visually (and, if it’s thick enough, aurally) mediates. In computer strategy games played on an aerial-view ‘game map’, sections of the map not yet explored and therefore unknown to the player are pictured as blacked-out: ‘fogged’. The ‘fog of war’ is dissipated as players move through it, gathering topographical information.
Although there are several pedagogical tropes employed here, Croft’s work emphasises perception and mediation, rather than the relaying of information. In ‘grey sky blue’ we observe a woman’s awkward interaction with a camera and her later manipulation through the video edit. We are constantly aware of the technology of video - the camera track; the lens (which flares when pointed at strong light); the malleable footage - which is sometimes reversed in Croft’s edit.
Croft’s series of rectangles (the wall, video, prints and guidebook) present portions of the nebulous, edgeless ‘fog’. Which might lead us to another coupling of hard rectangle and airborne particulate: ‘smoke and mirrors’ - a figure of speech acknowledging the seductive presentational ‘trick’ of a stage magician. Rather than magic itself, the ‘subject’ of a trick is the mediation of the performance.