It’s been more than two years since Shaun Gladwell’s beautifully shot collection of BMX riders, skateboarders and breakdancers powered onto the screens at his most recent Melbourne exhibition, Stereo Sequences at ACMI. What’s the Sydney-born, London-based video artist been doing? A lot.
There have been solo shows in the UK, Croatia, the US and Australia, and he directed a “chapter” in the film adaptation of Tim Winton’s collection of short stories, The Turning. “I’m a huge fan of cinema, and it was exciting as an experiment,” Gladwell says of The Turning experience, “and then during that experiment I fell in love with the process. I was working with incredible actors like Wayne Blair and Meyne Wyatt, but also having assistant directors was really fun.” He laughs. “I want one all the time now.”
A commission for the Rotterdam Philharmonic’s production of the Wagner opera Der Fliegende Holländer (The Flying Dutchman) gave this “closet opera fan” an opportunity to create video work in a different context this year.
“This is an early opera of his; he wrote it when he was 27 years old. And I remember what I was doing when I was 27 – I was just surfing. So I thought it was appropriate that I just make it about surfing.
“There were actually some pretty clear connections between sailors, which were part of his original libretto, and surfers, because they’re both [part of] these cultures of sea, trying to control the power of the ocean, and all the dangers and excitement associated with that.”
Next up for Gladwell is a new Melbourne show, Morning of the Earth, and its centrepiece is ‘The Flying Dutchman in Blue’, a revisioning of his video work for Der Fliegende Holländer. Gladwell split his original single-channel video into six channels that follow the structure of the opera.
“I didn’t want it to just be this live performance that only happens in a very privileged way for people who are actually in the concert hall listening to the musicians. This version is actually silent. It’s very separate from the opera.”
Morning of the Earth also includes videos, animation, photography and a collection of readymade objects. “It’s not just all about screens in this show. Though it’s mostly about screens!”
Gladwell says he’s looking forward to showing Melbourne what he’s been up to over the past couple of years. “All of these works are really being premiered in a way, because I reconfigure them. They’re completely different works by the time they get to Australia.”