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Summation of Force

Trent Parke & Narelle Autio

On Art, Life, and Cricket’s Answers to Both

Trent Parke and Narelle Autio’s film seeks to distill the essence, and capture the magic, of the sport of cricket.

Trent Parke’s mother died when he was thirteen. Suddenly a young boy loaded with a dangerous dose of mortal perspective, it caused him to interrogate everything. A slew of frustratingly unanswerable questions begun to enter his conscience before being spat back out into a vacuum of endless time. Why was he here? What happens next? What’s the purpose to any of this? They were not so much answered, but becalmed, by the cricket he found on the television: the length of time the game took and the endless detail within serving as a crutch to support this new fixation. “I began to develop this need to know how everything worked”, he says in  Art of the Game, a documentary about the making of The Summation of Force, directed by Matthew Bate of Closer Productions. Parke wonders, “How could fast bowlers bowl as fast as they could? How did spinners spin the ball?”.

He began to video-tape every single ball of five-day Test matches, rewinding the tape repeatedly to analyze them. “I would slow it down to see every minute detail of the bowler and what made him be able to bowl that type of delivery, over and over again,” he says. He pauses, as if the next admission might reveal too much about his obsession: “… for years”. Simultaneous to the timely dive into the distraction that cricket afforded him, he found his mother’s camera and, as if it was “the natural thing to do”, began to take photographs with it. “If I took a photo of something,” he considers in hindsight, “I could make sure nothing would disappear.”

Just under a decade later, on the other side of Australia, Narelle Autio had left college and found work experience at the Adelaide Advertiser as a photographer. With a passion for the artform but unsure as yet of her direction, she found herself spending days in the paper’s dark room processing photos from vague assignments. She watched her latest develop: a tight image of the face of a clown, wig not yet fixed, slightly wild eyes looking just off the camera. She threw it away. Ever the perfectionist, she hadn’t quite got the print right. Later that evening, the picture editor saw the image by chance – still face up in the refuse – in a last call sweep of the studio, and salvaged it. It was an enigmatic image of a clown caught between pantomime and frenzy, somehow surreal; a moment unmistakably captured. The newspaper ran with it on the front cover. From there, her career began. “Chance and coincidence”, she reflects, “is an important part of the process in photography.” Some years later still, when Parke had made an overnight decision – after some genuine on field cricketing promise – to pursue photography instead at The Australian newspaper, he looked up from the light-box at his new workplace. Narelle Autio, stationed opposite, by chance and coincidence, looked up from hers too, straight back at him. And that was it.

Summation of Force is an astounding moving image installation initially launched to wide acclaim in Adelaide in 2017. The accompanying virtual reality film was selected to premier internationally at the Sundance Film Festival before travelling worldwide throughout 2018. Blending and bending the world of sports and arts into space neither usually occupy, the film opens with the birth of Trent Parke and Narelle Autio’s second child, Dash. In the custom of capturing everything, Dash is recorded the very second he enters the world by Parke, screaming out amid gasps reserved only for the birth of a newborn, before we meet him barely minutes acquainted with his new world, eyes shut then squinting, as the doctor comments on his impressively present light hair. Though Summation of Force does not use the footage, when Dash meets his older brother Jem for the first time – another moment preciously documented – Jem looks upon him from a slight distance as Dash is told, “You’re a bowler, Jem is a batter.”

And so it proved to be. In a prologue of sorts to the film’s stylistic introduction, there are flashes of the brothers growing in their back garden; Dash bowling and Jem batting. They wrestle over a bat. They throw and hit the ball to each other. With each frame, they have developed slightly, fractionally bigger and more attuned as cricketers, until they are suddenly carved into their own idiosyncratic techniques. Dash, in particular, his light hair remarked upon by the doctor as now long and thin and wild, approaches the crease in a miraculously precise, cartoonish image of Australian fast bowlers from years gone by. By the time the section reaches its conclusion, he is running in full speed towards his awaiting brother in his back garden. Through the omnipresent sprinkler that somehow serves to frame the way, his body falls away to propel himself further. He leaps skyward – affording an impossible second to pedal himself once through the air itself – and then into his delivery stride. It’s a genuine fast bowler’s action, if somehow completely his own. Parke reflects these formative back-garden cricketing years: “Jem just asked us, ‘How come Dash can bowl fast’?”. It was all the parents needed to ask. A family project that would sprawl out into years had just begun.

  • Narelle Autio
    The Summation of Force, 2017

  • Narelle Autio
    The Summation of Force, 2017

  • Narelle Autio
    The Summation of Force, 2017

  • Narelle Autio
    The Summation of Force, 2017