Willie White interviews artist Andrew Cross.
The thrill has gone from travel. While we may fancy ourselves to be Born to Be Wild, congestion, fuel prices, pollution, and talk radio conspire to degrade our daily journey to an ordeal to be endured rather than an adventure to be embraced. Over the long haul, if the terrorists or the DVT don’t get you the airport departure lounge will numb you into hopelessness. Yet there must have been a time before this when travel promised better things.
The work of English artist Andrew Cross allows for such a possibility. A self-confessed trainspotter, his interest in trains does not tally with the popular image of a nerd with a notebook recording engine numbers. He is more interested in the mechanism for travel and where the tracks might lead to. In his digital film Foreign Power (Parts 1,2,3) 2002-2004, which was short listed for the Becks Futures prize, the central section features a static shot of a railway crossing in the US. The shot is allowed to establish and the viewer becomes aware of an almost meditative atmosphere with a light wind and sounds of insects and birds. Slowly the noise of something approaching grows in intensity until a mile long freight train crashes through the frame from left to right. The horizontal lines of the corrugated steel carriages and the uprights of their frames stream past, creating a stroboscopic effect, amplified by the rhythmic clacking of wheels crossing the junction. After a minute or so the train has passed but we are left with a distillation of the magnitude and purpose of its journey.