Shaun Gladwell: MADDESTMAXIMVS / Australian Pavilion / La Biennale di Venezia 2009

Shaun Gladwell represents Australia at the 53rd International Art Exhibition La Biennale di Venezia 2009. The show entitled MADDESTMAXIMVS brings together the artist’s trademark slowed-footage video installations of figures undertaking acts of physical virtuosity, with sculptural works and interventions into the fabric of the pavilion itself, such as a motorcycle that stucks in the outer wall of the building.

MADDESTMAXIMVS has been developed over a two-year period and marks a shoft from Shaun Gladwell’s earlier focus upon urban environments and engageds instead in a performative, personal exploration of the boundaries and possibilities of a human relationship to the Australian hinterland.

Born in 1972, Shaun Gladwell graduated from the Sydney College of the Arts with a Bachelor in Fine Arts, and the College of Fine Arts, Sydney with a Masters of Fine Art. 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.

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Begun in earnest in 2007, MADDESTMAXIMVS takes its local cues from sources as varied as Sidney Nolan’s ‘drought’ paintings and director George Miller’s Mad Max film trilogy, and is an ongoing project under which Gladwell conceives, produces and exhibits a variety of works in different configurations (these works include photographs, sculptural installations, lithographs and drawings, as well as video pieces). Gladwell’s Australian Pavilion installation features a range of works. Interceptor Surf Sequence (2009) is a newly produced two-channel video. Projected on either side of a suspended screen, the work effectively links both levels of the Pavilion. Apology to Roadkill (1-6) (2007-2009) pictures a black-helmeted motorcycle rider stopping to tenderly examine and cradle the carcasses of grey kangaroos. These major video works are joined by significant sculptural interventions into the pavilion itself: the motorbike from Apology to Roadkill (1-6) embedded into the outside wall of the Pavilion to create a protrusion in the inner skin of the space; and an especially constructed, functioning 1:1 ‘sculptural’ replica of the famous V8 ‘Interceptor’ car driven by Mel Gibson’s ‘Max’ character in Mad Max 1 and 2.

The Venice Pavilion project is completed by a new multi-channel video work – Centred Pataphysical Suite (2009) – comprising a tower of monitors, each featuring the image of a different performer spinning on the spot utilising their particular discipline (skateboarding, break-dancing, classical dancing, BMX riding); a sculptural work incorporating ‘live’ real-time footage on a monitor of the inside surface of a rotating human skull (Endoscopic Vanitas, 2009); and the latest of Gladwell’s ongoing series of Planet and Stars Sequence projects, involving both footage (Planet and Stars Sequence: Barrier Highway, 2009) and residue (Absolute Event Horizon, 2009) of an aerosol-painting work undertaken by the artist kneeling on the shoulder of an outback highway.

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