Call it zen if you like: Australian
video, A Study in Stillness and Balance
is all about complete absorption in thought. A single feat of endurance and
strength, Gladwell’s work makes the impossible look easy as he balances himself
on an off-road mountain bike minutes at a time—a telltale sign of his past as a
pro skater and BMX rider.
The 11-minute video shows the artist
set in three urban locations around Campbelltown, Australia: a carwash, an
outdoor staircase, and in front of a convenience store. Not a soul can be seen
wandering the streets, and the soundtrack is taken up by the continuous chirp
of crickets. We watch for minutes at a time while Gladwell holds the handlebars
taut—his entire body barely moves as the bike shifts slightly back and forth.
At the end of each scene, he rides off, and the video cuts to the next
location, where Gladwell begins the trial again. Toward the end of the video,
we finally see a car pass by—perhaps a sign of the return to urban normality.
Gladwell considers his videos
“performance landscapes;” he is at once a part of the environment and also
performing against what is expected of him within it. Each camera angle in the
video, with Gladwell placed at center, resembles a still photograph—a testament
to his highly controlled movements. This paradox of making a machine intended
for movement entirely still is is a nod to Eastern philosophy, and a visual
joke about the state of sociopolitical progress in the modern world.