Essay Daniela Castro, 2011

my Apology sequence [air metric]

i was listening to this song1 and remembered u in the rain2, the artificially dilated time setting a rhythm for your body, for the rain, for eroticism, for design, and for the information of that object, for the machine, for the motion exchanging roles with the soldier3, showing the dizzy, completely un-recognized landscape, a landscape of light red war, a dark-red and black landscape of V8 interceptor—all super flat—religiously and radically headed towards the rain4.

...i speak of a question of metrics, of measures (of time, of values), and of uncertainties brought about by the metaphor of the pilgrim and the tourist.5 the former experiences the duration of the trip as intensely as the arrival at the destination; time is distended, but not necessarily uniform; to the latter, the dilation of time is an issue to be solved through extra credit card mileage.

but I want to escape the double and even more so the trinity that the metaphor herein may imply6: what cheers me up is your spin7, your continuum8, the focus on balance9 that is an exercise in mind-emptying based on one single, simple slo-mo gesture, but which at once reveals and economizes all that is excessive in the world's technological software10 (of video and of war—the fact that it was born out of a war-related necessity and convenience—, of the history of art, white cube and otherwise, of the policies of identity that revolutionized culture just as the Silicon Valley revolutionized the market and culture, of the sensationalistic art market that makes use of the policies of identity to auction a video for US$ 90,000 at Sotheby's; I am not sure of the exact value, my apology #2).

...because we like it on the sly, until it hurts, I cannot see your art communicate policies (of identity in Australia, the mundane of street staking brought from outside to the inside of contemporary art aesthetics...); I cannot see your art informing anti- or pro-something values. but I do see—let us hope—in your art, because it suspends the rhythm of the tourist, even if only for twenty-three silent minutes or sixteen minutes channel stereo, in two channels, or six, that the world is a large farm with a problem flushing out the animals' shit, toxic, radioactive shit, that it does not matter whether the beach is Bondi or Itamambuca (Shaun, I am Brazilian. my history of art is as mine and as foreign to me as yours is familiar and foreign to you, of that I am apology #3 for making this bet).

it all comes from the being-a-colony thing, the postcolonial that forgets to ask questions or face up to things—out of convenience, cowardice, or whatever—what would in fact be the difference between the egocentric burden of being 'me' against the black hole that it is to be the 'other'11; it is never horizontal). the pilgrim travels the Bondi-Itamambuca route on foot, this is your slo-mo. this is your time. at a subway station, in the risk that stopping everything would entail, emptying the mind so as not to lose balance, lose focus, fall flat on the ground, break your neck, the pilgrim is the first to fall, but he is also the first one to get back up.

my apologies #4 and 5 are for the fragmentation of this text, unfinished, all interrupted by subtexts (with subliminal images), footnotes, backs and forths, pauses for reflection. u reveal, but at the same time halt the tourist's day-to-day and reminds us that le voyage of the pilgrim is possible. it's all there. we of the 1970s generation are all that, alas (maybe... apology n#6)12.


1 - Sort of wonder why no one said a word
Don't you like it on the sly?
Don't you like it till it hurts?
Have I been on your mind? What's a voice without a song?
Something in your head you've been fighting all along…
(excerpt) Metric, Raw Sugar, off the album Grow Up and Blow Away (2005).

2 - Storm Sequence, single-channel video, 2000.

3 - Double Field/Viewfinder [Tarin Kwot], synchronized two-channel video, 2009–2010.

4 - Interceptor Surf Sequence, HD single channel, 2009.

5 - Zygmunt Bauman, "From Pilgrim to Tourist – Or a Short History of Identity," in Question of Cultural Identity, published by Stuart Hall and Paul de Gay (Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, 1996).

6 - it is not a question of religion, obviously, even though the word figures outside of the metaphor in the first paragraph. it is a question of metrics of time and of other connections triggered by the artist's work (religare, etc.) which, I suspect, the critics do not use, addicted as they are in the trance that mistakes knowing with informing (not all critics, but most of them, my apology #1). however, the "urban ghettos," as the skateboarder, the hip hopper, and the biker crowds, among others, have come to be called, share an experience of belonging and of common values like members of a religion. in their own ways, they are all looking for a place that will act like a plant that manufactures meaning for what we call life.

7 - Pataphysical Man, single-channel video, 2005; Double Field/Viewfinder [Tarin Kwot], synchronized double channel, 2009–2010; Woolloomooloo Night, single-channel video, 2004…

8 - War Memorial Sessions, triple-channel HD, 2005; Pacific Undertow Sequence (Bondi), single-channel video, 2010.

9 - In a Station of the Metro, two-channel video, 2006.

10 - Air, Surfing on a Rocket, off the album Talkie Walkie, 2004.

11 - a kiss for my dear Jørgen Michaelsen (Pourquoi Malady, par(ent)esis publishing house, Florianópolis, yet to be published).

12 - Apologies 1-6, HD video, 2007–2009.

Interview Marcio Harum, 2011

1- Thinking where I live: Could you comment on how the fact of being invited a couple of years ago to produce locally a new piece (Double Voyage) for the 27th Bienal de São Paulo (2006) worked in your career? What was happening around you by that time?

I remember Lisette Lagnado inviting me to make a new work for the biennale and thinking through the possibilities of work in São Paulo. It was much more interesting to think of a project that would directly relate to its immediate environment rather than for me to simply import a work from elsewhere.

I wanted to develop a project that had links between my hometown of Sydney and São Paulo. The two connections I thought of after visiting São Paulo for research were highly discursive but definitely strong—skateboarding and transsexual culture. I had been interested in the skater Oggy de Souza for a few years before being invited to Brazil by Lisette and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to work with him. I was also very interested in transsexual culture and different forms of erotic dance and performance. There was a great connection to this culture in Brazil with my home city of Sydney, which has a very strong transsexual culture. I thought I would also explore this interest in conjunction with Oggy's unique practice of skateboarding (de Souza does not have use of his legs and has developed a unique way of skateboarding with his upper body).

The piece was forming into a double portrait that investigated individuals that were pushing the limits of their bodies or rather—"forging their bodies in the fire of their will." They were both very extreme, passionate individuals that were becoming other—transforming and, in this sense, the project is rather romantic.

After the research and finding the other performer in Double Voyage, Grace O'Hara, I returned to São Paulo to record the work.

It all happened at a time when I was thinking of the body and its potential to reauthor or transform its environment. It made sense to record Oggy against Niemeyer's imposing and sensual forms at Ibirapuera Park and to then record Grace in a nightclub with poles and bars—recalling the structures and frameworks Francis Bacon would frame his writhing fleshy figures.

2- After your series of videos named Apologies 1-6 (2007–2009) the presence of the Australian outback landscape has became more present and intense in your work. What was the real personal-artistic necessity 'going deep back home'?

From 2005 to 2007, I'd been working quite a lot on projects outside of Australia (such as the one I've just mentioned in São Paulo) and up to that point I had mostly focused on the urban space. However, there was one video work, Storm Sequence, from 2000, that looked at the intersection of the urban and natural environments, and it was this work that motivated my thinking about a distinct Australian landscape. The Storm Sequence work depicted a stereotypical Australian location but under unusual conditions. In similarity to Brazil, we Australians celebrate beach culture but this video describes a heavy storm over the beach. I thought of working with other locations in Australia and in ways that could have quite a lot of free play—works that could potentially reinforce stereotypes but also question them.

Apologies 1-6 was motivated by this interest to explore a well-known (even mythical) Australian interior, by working in the Australian desert or 'outback.' I didn't wish to claim authenticity simply because I was born in Australia. In fact, up until 2007, I had never really been into the desert, only to its outskirts. I was like the majority of Australians—living in a coastal city—and I thought about my relationship to the Australian desert through this project. It was a land shrouded in myth—a mirage of itself! So although I'd never been to the desert, there was a strange sense of connection with the space quite simply through the amount of cinema and television I'd watched. All these images somehow formed my preconception of the outback. So, when I ventured out to the desert, I decided to make a work that acknowledged the influence cinema had on my idea of those spaces. George Miller's Mad Max films had an enormous impact on me as a teenager and so the aesthetics of Mad Max was very clearly and directly referenced in this work.

Albeit a strong one, the Mad Max 'look' was simply a reference in the Apologies 1-6; in fact, I was interested in representing the desert in an entirely different way to the Mad Max films or any popular cinema—my work was presented in slow motion and with long takes as opposed to the fast and furious editing of popular cinema. However, it was important for me to keep that strong reference to specific films. The desert was an incredible experience—when I first went there to make the work, I knew I'd have to make several interconnected projects. The desert is an environment that I will continually return to and not merely for inspiration but the space will directly inform my work as will the media culture surrounding it.

3- Elaborate on the idea of 'moving painting' that your work requires from time to time.

I think the notion of moving painting could be appropriate for some forms of video art, and it could certainly apply to many of my pieces. The whole field seems to be in a free play between cinema, painting, installation, computer-generated imagery, etc. and I love this freedom and range. I could describe my work as moving painting for all the subtle and overt references to art history and painting in particular, but now I think it could also be characterized as slow cinema or "unfrozen" architecture (to play with Goethe's quote).

Like many other video artists, I don't feel the need to compete with the Hollywood model of high-definition imagery. I still use domestic video cameras (which are now of course high definition) but what is more important to me is this access to the means of production. In terms of image quality, I'm interested in the text by Hito Steyerl entitled "In Defense of the Poor Image." Low resolution or poor images are as much a part of our lives (and certainly our online lives) as is high resolution cinematic imagery. It's also an interesting challenge to the Hollywood mode of production. I'm interested in video art within Steyerl's analysis of the 'poor image.' My work is at times both poor and also high definition. Certainly, when it is work recorded on domestic equipment, it feels as though my practice is very close to a more general use of video in the world today. I'm thinking of the writings of Boris Groys here, who does not make a clear distinction between what would have been considered avant-garde activity and the millions of Facebook and YouTube users. When John Ruskin and, later, Joseph Beuys insisted 'we are all artists,' the first media we have decided to take up (evidenced by the web) is photography and video (and one could also argue for performance here).

I am also thinking of a medium like painting and its popularity now being matched with consumer electronics and the thrill of image and video playback plus transmission. This is something that started with painting as it moved from architecture into more mobile supports like canvas stretchers. In this period of historical acceleration, video is a very fast medium indeed and it's not restrained to the critical 'fine art' application of video!

4- What would be your dream project to be set up in Brazil?

This is an extremely difficult question! Without any limits or restrictions, I'd love to make a series of works in Brazil. I'd love the work to mostly be video but also involve architectural elements within its installation. I'd love for the work to look at how bodies respond to different environments throughout the country. One environment I'd be very interested in working with would be Brasília. I'd love to record a video involving very high-risk skateboarding in the capital. I think Niemeyer was unwittingly designing a skateboarding park and I'd love to work in Brasília over an extended period of time with a local and international skateboard community—and this would be a development with the work I produced in São Paulo with Oggy de Souza. But of course, my interest would also be in forms of movement like capoeira, street dancing and art, surfing, parkour, free climbing, survival trekking, etc. I would survey the relationship bodies have to a wide range of spaces in Brazil.

It would be an extensive work but due to the size of the country and diversity and volume of activity in these areas, I could only ever focus on fragments—they would be wonderful fragments no doubt!

Comment biography Marcio Harum, 2011

Body in Motion

The clean technique of Shaun Gladwell's work—fixed and slow cameras, devoid of editing cuts or zooming effects—examines certain sports of urban cultures that take place in outdoor versus indoor settings. There is a constant appeal for meaning that reclaims the loss while claiming for the reconquering of public space, urban or natural, common to the landscapes of cities of all sorts.

Live collaborative performances are held at the exact location where the notion of groups and subcultures intersect, between the photographic still and the video. The artist's production, formal in a strict sense, portrays one single person, in a given place and at a specific moment of corporal activity.

His works disrupt exhibitions at art centers, biennials, and galleries by institutionally legitimizing the community lifestyle of skaters, bikers, and b-boys, previously confined to the circuit of migration from the street scene to the pages of fashion magazines or MTV music videos.

Dancing in the rain

In a recent perspective, Shaun Gladwell's Storm Sequence (2000) video plays a certain historic role: it was the first Australian piece of installation work to be auctioned. The fact that an anonymous collector has purchased the work in DVD, via Sotheby's—in Melbourne, in 2007—has made it into an indelible mark of the artist's presence, worldwide, and an icon of the vigor of Australian art at the turn of the century.

A harmonic, romantic painting about the deck of a skateboard, with Sydney's most popular beach, Bondi, on the background. Through rain-sprinkled lenses, Storm Sequence portrays the soft movements of a body that dances in equilibrium of maneuvers, in between peaceful images of a stormy ocean and skies, and the hard tarmac of the city that emerges amidst the vision of the beach. There is an indecipherable similarity with the footage of Hélio Oiticica as a dancer for samba school Mangueira, shot in Super-8 by Ivan Cardoso in the 1970s in Rio de Janeiro: bodies that dance asynchronously underneath the coats and parangolés, to the sound of old sambas and the Rolling Stones.

The work was selected for Robert Storr's Think with the Senses, Feel with the Mind programme, in the 52nd edition of the Venice Biennale, in 2007.

On two wheels

In Busan Triptych: Calligraphy & Slowburn (2006), a man gracefully performs radical manoeuvres on a BMX bike in an exhibition room. The perceived antagonism conforms, Eastern-style, the struggle between aspects of traditional culture (calligraphy in a museum environment) and a specific representative of contemporary urban subculture (the virtuoso biker doing his performance on two wheels in the middle of an exhibition). The absence of nature in the surroundings, free from any narrative structure whatsoever, leads us to look not at the calligraphy on the wall, but rather at the language of the lone biker who remains stranded in the strange context as he acrobatically weaves his movements in space. Nothing else happens, except for the insistently meditative action of the antigravity gesture, which is absolutely explored by the biker moving on his bicycle, with its elastic meaning, in slowed-down time. The street invades the museum. A copy of the video is part of the Videobrasil collection in São Paulo.

Repetition and meditation: double mirror

Erotic without being frantic, oscillating between silence and skate art audio, Double Voyage (2006) is the double-projection video installation commissioned by the board of curators of the 27th Bienal de São Paulo and produced locally in that same year. Presented as a double portrait, the piece of work is an investigation on individuals who push their bodies beyond their physical limits.

Performing in front of a set of buildings at the Ibirapuera park, duplicated by a huge mirror on the wall, side by side, the transsexual pole dancer Grace O'Hara, in constant motions of seduction, and skater Oggy de Souza, who maneuvers his skateboard in radical tricks with the aid of his torso and arms alone.

With Oscar Niemeyer's architecture as background, the installation gives a glimpse of the cruel sensuality of a night life of pleasures, combined with the urban perversity that so affects relationships of belonging in current days—this tough subject of difficult access to all.

Bibliographical references 2011

Website of the Anna Schwartz gallery (Sydney and Melbourne), which represents Shaun Gladwell commercially. Organized access to images and information on past and recent work, biography, exhibition, and news.

Article by Daniel Palmer, published on the British magazine in October 2010, on the work of Shaun Gladwell. It covers his oeuvre starting with Storm Sequence (2000), and covering In a Station of the Metro, Hikaru: Fast Food Sequence (2001), and Handrails (2007).

Venice Biennale
Focuses on Shaun Gladwell's stint as one of the artists in the Australian pavilion of the Giardini della Biennale at the 53rd Venice Biennale (2009). In his MADDESTMAXIMVS installation, Gladwell uses five videos to explore the relationships between sculpture and photographs suggested by the deserted Australian landscape and the emblematic Mad Max movie.

Sherman Galleries
The Foundation for Contemporary Art hosts an exhibition program featuring the most prominent Australian visual artists and commissions special artwork and projects, especially from the Asia-Pacific region. Includes good documentation on the artist's work.

São Paulo
A very short record of the artist's participation at the 27th Bienal de São Paulo 2006 (How to Live Together), curated by Lisette Lagnado, where he featured his very strong Double Voyage (2006) installation, commissioned for the exhibition.