October 2011

Arts & Letters

Video art masterpiece

By Juliana Engberg
Shaun Gladwell - ‘Storm Sequence’, 2000

Iconic, mesmerising, atmospheric and in a zone of its own, Storm Sequence is compelling in its use of place, pace and proposition. As the sea swells, the wind agitates and large droplets of the pending storm start to splatter, a lone skateboarder – the artist – pirouettes, hotdogs and glides along the dampening concrete of a Sydney boardwalk as the storm behind him builds. Slow, graceful, yet charged with a kind of erotic, body electric, Gladwell’s performance recalls the mannerist, Prussian blue raptures of El Greco, twisted into street cred.

Gladwell’s project has been to harness and make apparent the poetry of movement enacted by urban performers – outsider athletes such as skaters, breakdancers, bikers and traceurs. This work captures an essential Australian mood – that moment of release, which comes at the end of a hot summer’s day, when the petulant dark sky opens up and the tense, sun-stiffened body loosens and obtains its languid sensuality again. This is a raw and primal work. Universal and yet utterly particular in its character, it is unmistakably Australian and contemporary. But it is also arcane and libidinous, and travels from a larger human psyche that gives it a mythic quality.

—Juliana Engberg

Juliana Engberg

Juliana Engberg is a curator and writer.

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