We acknowledge the Gadigal of the Eora Nation, the traditional custodians of the Country on which the Art Gallery of NSW stands.


Double balancing act



Shaun Gladwell


1972 –

Alternate image of Double balancing act by Shaun Gladwell
Alternate image of Double balancing act by Shaun Gladwell
Alternate image of Double balancing act by Shaun Gladwell
  • Details

    Places where the work was made
    Oruzgan Afghanistan
    New York New York United States of America
    Media category
    Time-based art
    Materials used
    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
    Not on display
    Accession number
    © Shaun Gladwell

    Reproduction requests

    Artist information
    Shaun Gladwell

    Works in the collection


  • About

    '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.

  • Places

    Where the work was made

    New York

  • Exhibition history

    Shown in 1 exhibition

  • Bibliography

    Referenced in 7 publications

    • ARTAND Australia (Editor), Artist's choice: five decades of artists' writing, 'Writers' gallery 1998-2014', pg. 155-173, Australia, 2016, 170 (colour illus., video still), 179.

    • Art Basel (Editor), Art/41/Basel: 16-20/6/10: the art show, ‘Art galleries, art edition, art feature, art statements’, pg. 58-665, Ostfildern, 2010, 558, 559 (colour illus., video still). Another edition exhibited in Art 41 Basel, Art Galleries Exhibition Sector - Anna Schwartz Gallery, 16.06.2010-16-20.06.2010.

    • Natasha Bullock and Alexie Glass, Parallel collisions: 2012 Adelaide Biennial of Australian art, 'The artist's works', pg. 9-140, Adelaide, 2012, 66-67 (colour illus., video still), 312, 313 (illus., video still).

    • Rex Butler., Shaun Gladwell: stereo sequences, ‘The video conceit’, Melbourne, 2011, (colour illus., video still). not paginated

    • Stephen Hepworth, Shaun Gladwell: perpetual 360° sessions, 'Preface', pg. 5-13, Heerlen, 2011, 12, 92 (colour illus., video still), 93 (colour illus., video still).

    • Anneke Jaspers, Look, 'Shaun Gladwell', pg. 13, Sydney, Sep 2012, 13.

    • Lily Wei, ARTnews, 'In harm's way', pg. 42-49, Manhattan, Apr 2015, front cover (colour illus., video still), 46 (colour illus., video still).

Other works by Shaun Gladwell

See all 19 works