About the Artwork
Apology to Roadkill is part of a series of works that meditate upon the well-known Australian films Mad Max I and Mad Max II. It was included in Shaun Gladwell’s presentation in the Australian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale (2009) among a suite of video and sculptural objects that also referenced these quintessential Australian films.
Like the movies on which it is based, Apology to Roadkill finds a performer – Gladwell himself – riding a motorbike on the Australian open road. Gladwell accelerates, then slows down before coming to a stop alongside ‘roadkill’ – kangaroos and wallabies which he cradles as if wishing them back to life. Celebrating their small lives, these animals represent the physical front line in the collision between humankind and the natural world.
Through this video, Gladwell explores some of the tropes of Australian identity: the idea of the wide open road; the empty outback only populated by the ghosts of nature; rumbling road trains; and the ‘outsider’ represented here by a man in black leather, with a black helmet and impenetrable visor – both a romantic figure and a monstrous threat. Its tension comes through the implied violence of what we know from the films, which contrasts with the protagonist’s delicate cradling of the dead animals. The work explicitly references certain moments from Mad Max II, in particular the opening sequences featuring Max in his high performance Interceptor car; the feral outlaws living in an apocalyptic landscape looking for fuel; and the presence of the landscape itself as a character, filled with truck wrecks, carcasses and a suffocating fear.
Glenn Barkley (curator), Storm Sequence, (Statement of significance, object file note), Museum of Contemporary Art, 2011
– About the artist
Shaun Gladwell is an Australian-born, London-based artist. He completed Associate Research at Goldsmiths College, London in 2001 and has since undertaken numerous international residencies and commissions. He has exhibited prodigiously in Europe, North and South America, and in the Asia Pacific Region.
In 2011, Gladwell had major survey exhibitions at the SCHUNCK* museum in Heerlen, The Netherlands and at the Wadsworth Atheneum in Connecticut, USA as part of the Matrix Exhibition Series. His exhibition, Shaun Gladwell: Stereo Sequences, at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image in Melbourne was the first in a series of major commissions by the institution. He also held a solo exhibition, Riding with Death: Redux at Anna Schwartz Gallery, Sydney. His work featured in significant group exhibitions, including: The Power of Doubt, curated by Hou Hanru, Museo Colecciones ICO, Madrid, 2011; Paradise Lost, Istanbul Museum of Art, 2011; Southern Panoramas, 17th International Contemporary Art Festival SESC_Videobrasil, Sao Paolo, Brazil, 2011; and the John Kaldor Family Collection, Art Gallery of New South Wales, 2011.
Shaun Gladwell represented Australia at the 53rd Venice Biennale and travelled to Afghanistan as the official Australian War Artist in 2009. His work is held in significant public and private collections nationally and internationally, including: Wadsworth Atheneum, USA; Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo; the Progressive Art Collection, USA; National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney; and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney.