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Crush

by Robert Sandall .

If like Knight, you suspect that in the end cars are just slightly over-priced pieces of metal and plastic then Crush should be compulsive viewing.

Nick Knight has mixed feelings about cars. As a professional photographer his images have been used (by Mercedes recently) to celebrate their sleek lines and promote their luxurious cachet. Privately however, Knight is fascinated by the dark side of the saloon: by the life threatening potential concealed behind those sexy gleaming surfaces and the comfortable faux-sophistication of the trim. Though he has never been personally involved in a serious road accident, he is insatiably curious as to what actually happens amidst the traumatic transfer of energy unleashed when a vehicle crashes. In a car, Knight concludes, you are culturally anesthetised. You are being conned by your environment.

There are no such deceptions on offer in Crush. By placing 12 tiny video cameras inside a car just prior to its being pancaked in a giant crusher, Knight was able to document the execution of a doomed automobile with rare verisimilitude. Because the cams were attached to long feeds and because they proved surprisingly durable themselves every last scrunch and groink was captured on videotape.

Crush was filmed at a depot for unclaimed impounded cars near Heathrow Airport. Four vehicles were flattened during its making, but the best turned out to be a red 1983 Datsun whose glass sunroof tremendously enhanced the drama. If like Knight, you suspect that in the end cars are just slightly over-priced pieces of metal and plastic then Crush should be compulsive viewing.

The accompanying music is by Robert Del Naja, also known as 3D of Massive Attack, with whom Knight has worked before. In fact the genesis of the idea for Crush may well have been the image of the beetle featured on the sleeve of Massive's last album Mezzanine. What appeared to be a straightforward blow up of an insect turned out, on closer inspection, to be a more complex, composite image. Devised by the bands art director Tom Hingston and photographed by Knight, various parts of that beetle were actually taken from the remains of beaten up BMW's.

Robert Sandall is a writer, broadcaster and presenter of Radio 3's Mixing It.