This text is an extract of a class discussion on inferences drawn around the semantics of a catalog essay by Robin McKenzie and was first uploaded to the original REWIRED site as a review of key points in a particular lesson.
In itself; it is not, and does not, represent a critique of Gladwell’s work but exists as evidence of what a certain line of reasoning might uncover as interpretation.
In 2001 Gladwell was one of the 10 recipients of the Samstag Scholarship. Below is the catalog essay by Robin McKenzie.
“Using an absurdist logic that joins together things belonging to different categories, the project of Shaun Gladwell is loose canon anarchic. Historical cultural material, contemporary technologies, and the urban landscape are boiled up together in his pot. The result, in Gladwell’s own words: ‘John Glover would have made excellent skateboards in his spare time.’
(Interestingly John Glover could not have made skateboards in his spare time, for reasons that are fairly obvious, unless Gladwell is projecting Glover’s persona, which we know little about, into a present day context. Either way, Gladwell is forcing an association with an already existing iconic figure. Gladwell makes a similar type of association based on atmospherics between his Storm Sequence and Turner’s paintings).
“Gladwell is interested in the creative distortions resulting from the transmission of images and ideas between different cultural zones and historical periods. In Warped Wood, he juxtaposes a Glover painting (an image that has been digitally copied and compressed along the horizontal axis and then repainted) with two custom-made skateboards. Building on the superficial connection between the curved lines of a typical Glover tree, and a skateboard’s bent plywood deck, Gladwell sees a parallel between the two cultural activities. The distortion of natural form in Glover’s paintings is mirrored in the way in which the skateboarder recodes the urban landscape, reassigning or distorting the use-value of urban architecture: ‘the hand-rail becomes a slippery dip.’
A champion ‘freestyle’ skateboarder, in the video Kickflipping flaneur, Gladwell draws a connection between the activity of the skateboarder in the contemporary urban city and the Modernist hero of the nineteenth century city, Baudelaire’s flaneur, ‘strolling/rolling incognito through the city’. The compelling, yet curious, works resulting from these wide-ball associations make a convincing argument for the ‘wrong science’ school of art.”
From her Samstag catalog essay
Art and Research
digital video still
(camera: Michael Shiavello)
© the artist
oil on canvas, plywood decks, steel brackets
80 x 240 cm, decks 62 x 28 cm each
(produced with the financial support of Peter Fay)
© the artist
images sourced @ http://www.unisa.edu.au/samstag/scholars/scholars01/gladwell.asp
Read some text on the notion of the flaneur here and see if it agrees with McKenzie’s isolated assertion or interpretation of the connection between Baudelaire’s flaneur and Gladwell’s skateboarder.
“MADDESTMAXIMVS marks a shift from Gladwell’s earlier focus upon urban environments and engages instead in a performative, personal exploration of the boundaries and possibilities of a human relationship to the Australian hinterland. At the same time, MADDESTMAXIMVS also looks at differing experiences of time and being, in particular through the relationship of the human body to its immediate environment.”
It is arguable that MADDESTMAXIMVS marks a shift from Gladwell’s earlier focus upon urban environments. Was Gladwell’s work focused on urban environments or were they simply the contexts (read locations) for filming at the time, and retrospectively contextualized into a conceptual locus for the creation of work? Or is this just a spin to validate and authenticate a change of scene and hence justify the observations inclusion in this Biennale forward.
Remember that the target audience for this text is most likely to be other curators and critics, this is not the language of the everyday.
Footage (below) of a figure carrying roadkill
Footage (below) of a figure standing on the roof of a moving vehicle
Read this in relation to;
“A helmeted figure in black emerges from inside the moving car through the side window, slowly mounts the roof of the vehicle and stands upright. Every nuance of his movement is emphasized in slow-motion, transforming a potentially dangerous act into a formal study in physical virtuosity as the body embraces and balances the elemental forces of velocity and gravity that draw it deeper into the Australian hinterland.”
The problem with the use of the words ‘the boundaries and possibilities’ is that by default it implies all the boundaries and possibilities, because the phrase is not constrained or qualified except in relation to ‘human experience’. Had the text said some of the boundaries and possibilities it would be hard to argue the validity of the statement, but by deifying the act and the artist under an all embracing umbrella that appears to include all the boundaries and possibilities, French weakens the viability of the statement (from my point of view).