Shaun Gladwell

Portrait of a man: alive and spinning/Dead as a skeleton dressed as a Mountie

September 8 - October 16, 2010

Georgia Scherman Projects is pleased to announce the first solo show of internationally acclaimed Australian artist Shaun Gladwell in Canada. Curated by Ihor Holubizky, Senior Curator at McMaster Museum of Art, this exhibition entitled Portrait of a man: alive and spinning/Dead as a skeleton dressed as a Mountie presents new and recent videowork, photography, and sculpture, weaving together a complex and nuanced orchestration of thoughts about the physical and social body with cues drawn from popular culture, literature and philosophy.

The exhibition keystone is a new videowork and installation based on Gladwell’s footage of Canadian freestyle professional skateboarder Kevin Harris performing 360 degrees spins, and a continuation of Gladwell’s on-going Centered Pataphysical Suite with subjects engaged in different types of sport or street culture activity. The sculptural component is comprised of a range of unaltered, new, used and distressed Harris-designed skateboards with graphics that feature a cartoonish, skeletal Mountie holding a beaver. The graphics draw an analogy to Joseph Beuys’ landmark 1965 performance “How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare,” a key reference in Gladwell’s prior works, and hence the title of this exhibition.

The complementary “Pataphysical” work, also being shown for the first time, depicts American performance artist Bill Shannon spinning on his bespoke crutches in Times Square subway station, New York.  As Gladwell explained, both Harris and Shannon use a form of prothesis – extensions of the body – to achieve a high sped concentric movement that generates a distortion, which he describes as a dysfunctional panopticism, and drawing inspiration from Jacques Derrida’s 1993 project Memoirs of the Blind. Gladwell stated, “The spinner can see 360 degrees, but at speed the blur takes any resolution away. It is a paradoxical space of simultaneously seeing everything and nothing. The removal of the blind spot through rotation is to discover an even greater blind spot.”

Gladwell has slowed down the movement to underscore the paradox of “seeing everything and nothing,” and likewise for the video sketch of a related “Pataphysical” work from

Gladwell’s MADDESTMAXIMVS suite – first shown in full at the Venice Biennale in 2009 – and based on the Interceptor car from the George Miller “Mad Max” films.  The video sketch is presented on a PSP gaming console lodged into a wall. The car is seen being driven in circles and obscured by clouds of desert dust, but moves in and out of view as it is “passing through” the wall.  Gladwell describes the action and phenomenon as “a form of cyclical being and nothingness [a reference to Jean-Paul Sartre’s 1943 landmark existential treatise] for petrol heads!”

Each work takes the form of enactment – Harris and Shannon are partners in the co-creation of their respective videos – but in the ensemble, exhibition grouping, “man and machine” are caught in each others rotational fields.

Born in Australia in 1972, Shaun Gladwell graduated from the Sydney College of the Arts with a Bachelor in Fine Arts; the College of Fine Arts, Sydney with a Masters of Fine Art; and, completed an Associate Research at Goldsmiths College, University of London, in 2001. In 2006 Gladwell was awarded a two-year Fellowship from the Australia Council for the Arts Visual Arts Board to research and produce five major works for several international biennales and commissions, including the Busan and Sao Paulo Biennales, an exhibition at Tokyo Wonder Site, Japan and a multi-channel video project in Sydney. He most recently represented Australia at the 53rd Venice Biennal, 2009.