Monday, June 13, 2011

Shaun Gladwell: Stereo Sequences

Pataphysical Man, 2005
(production still for digital video)
Image courtesy of the artist and Anna Schwartz Gallery

I picked up a ridiculous pair of Nike hightops a few weeks ago that have literally given me a lift. They are multicoloured marshmallows for the feet. I wore them yesterday to ACMI to the Gladwell exhibition in order to place me in the mood? Demonstrate my solidarity with the subject of the exhibition? Possibly both. I guess you could say I was excited. I'd gotten drunk at the opening a few weeks ago and didn't like the prospect of all those steps down to the gallery space. On the night, I gave a walk through a miss. So my anticipation levels were high. I expected to like this show, really, really like this show. But my heart sank literally the moment the school kids entrance lift deposited me on the gallery floor. I found myself face-to face with a twee model on one side, a naff drawing of what looked like figures doing yoga on a train on the other. One step into the show – six large screens, three on either side of the room displaying a mirror image of feats of risk and movement should have restored my faith. These individuals performing feats of skill and high risk: filming out of a helicopter, a car, and from the vantage point of a fast moving skateboard should have got my heart racing. But the dimensions of the space – the width of the room, height of the ceilings – sapped the installation of charge.

You know, I'm not going to go through it blow by blow. Be prepared to lie on your back and look at the solarised motion of some kick ass performers (capeoera, ballet, skaters, pole dances etc) on screens mounted on the ceiling, crouch down low to watch two super 8 projectors of a bit of art making at the edge of the sea shore (if you get it, tell me, I had no idea what to feel other than worry that the artist might get swept out to sea). I wanted lean, gutsy, bold. Gladwell and ACMI are shooting for something else. Cutting Edge? Engaging?

Don't get me wrong, there are some wonderful individual pieces that possess poetry and affect in equal measure. Stereo Sequences is a mesmerising four minute video of a skateboarder riding a horizontal escalator arms outstretched in a gesture that is utterly ancient and of this time. And ACMI is to be applauded for commissioning such ambitious projects by contemporary video artists. Marclay and Lye filled the space with ease. They were a life's work though. But I can't help feeling that Gladwell is a one work, one room artist. Gladwell's videos are at their most captivating displayed in lo-fi simplicity. It's then that his unerring eye for composition, feeling for surface textures and fascination with bodies in space and motion hold your attention. When his work works the videos do it effortlessly with blunt insistence. Is there something to take home, other than a wish to get physical? Put the texta's down and don't try so hard.

Shaun Gladwell: Stereo Sequences
ACMI, Federation Square
On until Sunday 14 August 2011
Open daily 10am-6pm
Free entry


  1. Most curious to check it out. Like your honesty Anna.

  2. It really is worthwhile (problems aside). But I'll be really interested to know whether you responded similarly or not.