The Devil Has No Helmet by Shaun Gladwell at Analix Forever in Geneva

Tomorrow, 2 September 2016, the first solo exhibition in Switzerland of Australian-born UK-based artist Shaun Gladwell opens at Analix Forever.

For Shaun Gladwell, movement comes first. From skate to bike and surf to plane, Gladwell experiments every gesture. Movement, driven to its extreme, becomes a perfect moment of stupefaction. And to further magnify movement, Gladwell slows it down, in a neo-romantic approach to mastering time.

The works presented at Analix Forever include video and photography, drawings and objects.

The major recent video work by Gladwell, entitled Skateboarders vs Minimalism (2016, commissioned by Catriona & Simon Mordant), will be shown as video street art. In this video, the high-flying skaters Rodney Mullen, Hillary Thompson and Jesus Esteban slide and jump in the Torrance Museum in Los Angeles, confronting themselves to sculptures by Donald Judd, Carl Andre or Tony Smith, the immobile presence of which competes for attention with the twirling figures of the skaters. Photographs and objects are shown along with Skateboarders vs Minimalism: John Baldessari’s edition skates, modified and signed by Shaun Gladwell, become unique pieces.

Gladwell is currently studying for his pilot’s license: another way to master gravity. In the video I also live at one infinite loop (2011), Gladwell films himself strapped in the cockpit of a military jet fighter (L39 Albatros) over Australia’s Hunter Valley, helmet in place and camera in his hands, struggling to hold it steady. Like a bird…

In 2013, Gladwell was commissioned by the Rotterdam Opera House to create the scenery for a single performance of Wagner’s Flying Dutchman. This production owes to Bill Viola’s vision, particularly in the omnipresence of water—but is also filled with Gladwell’s own obsessions and romanticism, from water to fire, from stilts to wings, from birds to helmet.

Indeed, the helmet is prominent in Gladwell’s world: an instrument of concealment, an exoskeleton that masks man’s fragility, seeking to bind body and mind together and to protect life. The helmet/exoskeleton becomes a “generic head,” a style, an exercise of dissimulation and assimilation to a group, and a symbol for identity, departure and solitude.

In The Devil has no Helmet, the helmet in one hell of a state.


Analix Forever – 2 rue de Hesse 1204, Geneva
2 September – 2 November, 2016
Opening: Thursday 1 September, 2016, 6pm –8pm