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Shaun Gladwell

(Australia 1972 – )

Double balancing act

Not on display
Further information

'Double balancing act' 2009-10 is one of two videos that Gladwell has made subsequent to his sojourn as an official war artist in Afghanistan. Based at Tarin Kout in Oruzgan province, Gladwell was embedded with Australian troops for 3 weeks in October 2009. Living with soldiers at the military base, Gladwell accompanied patrols, visited local communities and the field hospital and participated in the daily routines of the Reconstruction Taskforce. Apart from experiencing the reality of daily life for the soldiers participating in 'Operation Slipper', Gladwell was overwhelmed by the local landscape which he has described in interviews as unexpectedly "vast and enormous and grand".

The experience of war for the majority of Australians is through global media: 24 hour news broadcast into our lounges, streamed online footage and news photographs of defining moments. In previous works Gladwell has deliberately worked against the fast jump edits and image montages that he has referred to as 'MTV logic' through deliberately slowing footage, concentrating on a singular subject and having an open ended narrative if at all. He continues these methodologies in his Afghanistan works, but also avoids the conclusive moment, battle scenes and human interest stories of war reportage.

'Double balancing act' presents two performers, each on their own screen. One is a soldier who repeatedly balances his gun on his open palm while standing on the sand dunes of the Afghani desert. The other performer is a man on the urban graffitied streets of New York who attempts a range of balancing acts on his crutches. The soldier in camouflage uniform in the desert is in a sense disarmed as his gun becomes a prop to balance rather than a weapon of war; it also suggests something of the futility and boredom between operations in Afghanistan, of life suspended so far away from home. Inevitably viewing the man on crutches in the urban camouflage of New York suggests life after war and the reality of physical injury that can occur in combat zones and the fact that Australian troops have experienced their greatest loss of life since Vietnam while stationed in Afghanistan. While this balancing act requires some skill, there is also a sense of futility to it.

Place of origin
Oruzgan, Afghanistan
New York, New York, United States of America
Time-based art
dual channel digital video, colour, silent
duration: 00:07:32 min channel 1, 00:04:04 min channel 2, aspect ratio: 16:9
Signature & date

Signed l.c. certificate of authenticity, black fibre-tipped pen "Shaun Gladwell". Not dated.

Contemporary Collection Benefactors 2011
Accession number
© Shaun Gladwell