David Brooks: Repositioned Core

September 19 – December 6, 2014

Repositioned Core is a site-specific installation commissioned by the VAC in which artist David Brooks dissects the Vaulted Gallery space with a geologic core sample. During his spring 2014 residency, Brooks began his research at The University of Texas by investigating the Austin Core Research Center (CRC), a hangar-sized warehouse containing an archive of more than two million rock cores, samples, and well logs. These vast holdings span the entire era of prospecting for oil in Texas, from the nineteenth century through the oil boom years of the turn of the twentieth century to today.

Brooks came to work with this storied material at the CRC through his longstanding interests in finding mediations rather than bifurcations between the natural world and the cultural sphere. For Brooks, the material culture of the petroleum industry profoundly intertwines the realms of geology, evolution, and the commodification of the natural world, as it literally fuels the motions of our daily lives. The centerpiece of the installation is a 70-foot long core sample that Brooks acquired from the CRC archives. All data concerning the core’s location of extraction has long since been lost. However its depth of extraction is known to be precisely 5,285 feet.

Brooks’ repositioning of the core both acknowledges and defies the gallery space. By demarcating the space it also escapes it – piercing through the gallery’s glass wall and returning to the ground in the exterior courtyard. The dynamism of the core’s trajectory reanimates both the core and the architecture of the gallery, treating the core as an active object in the gallery, and the gallery as a body that can be pierced. Here the built environment is intertwined with an artifact formed over millions of years, creating a multidimensional experience of the situation. To ascertain the wholeness of the core means to synthesize one’s faculties of imagination with one’s sensory experience in the present moment – as one cannot experience the core 5,825 feet in the ground, nor experience millions of years. Therefore the viewer must imagine such truths to know and experience that which is positioned before them and dictating their very movements through the gallery.

Generous support for David Brooks’ residency comes from Suzanne Deal Booth and David G. Booth, Stratus Properties, and the W Austin. Special thanks to James Donnelly at the Core Research Center at The University of Texas at Austin for making this project a reality. 



David Brooks lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. He attended the Städelschule, Staatliche Hochschule für Bildende Künste in Frankfurt am Main, Germany and then earned his BFA from The Cooper Union in 2000 and MFA from Columbia University in 2009. His work investigates how cultural concerns cannot be divorced from the natural world, while also questioning the terms under which nature is perceived and utilized.

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