Baden Pailthorpe at Recontres Internationales

29 November 2012 Alex Bellemore

Baden Pailthorpe has had a huge year. Picking up his first solo show at Martin Browne Contemporary in Sydney and exhibiting with the gallery at the Melbourne Art Fair, whilst also being included in group shows for ARTSPACE and a wide range of international exhibitions including FILE in Sao Paulo. To top it off, Pailthorpe has been selected to exhibit his work Formation V (2011) as part of Recontres Internationales- an international exhibition which will tour to Paris, Berlin and Madrid. The Recontres Internationales project serves to promote new cinema, video and multi-media works from well established and emerging artists, profiling a broad range of practice within contemporary moving image. As part of an open call out process, the competition for inclusion in this prestigious exhibition is highly competitive with applicant numbers in the high thousands. Pailthorpe comments, ‘Any chance to exhibit overseas is significant, especially as part of such an established exhibition of new media and contemporary art. And that Rencontres Internationales travels to three key European museums of contemporary art: the Palais de Tokyo, Paris, the Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin and the Spanish Cinematheque, Madrid, it is a tremendous opportunity to gain international exposure.’

Pailthorpe is no stranger to the international stage, having completed a Masters degree in Paris and studying Arabic and Islamic studies in his undergraduate degree. ‘Studying in foreign languages and cultures has been crucial in forming my understanding of the complexities of art,’ says Pailthorpe, ‘as well as informing my use of media. Working with technology requires specific kinds of knowledge of software, codes, protocols and systems. Both art and technology are languages like any other, with particular vocabularies and grammars. Understanding how these languages operate is key to being able to expose the magic of a particular medium.’ Given the nature of Pailthorpe’s work, being abreast with international advancements in the medium are crucial to best practice especially when considering that Pailthorpe’s work has focused on global contemporary military cultures, which incorporates another set of protocols and lexicon to appreciate.

The work selected for Recontres Internationales- Formation V, 2011; subverts the idea of a traditional gaming format and places two opposing military forces marching and performing military maneuvers in unison beside, through and around each other. The figures movements do not imply passivity towards the opposition, rather the combined forms of the soldiers create distorted figures and shapes only possible through the repetition in this medium. This type of precision creates an unseen sense of hostility and potential for violence which is inherent to the world of gaming. The artist comments, ‘I consciously avoided including any violence throughout the Formation series. But because of the violent nature of the medium it is perhaps expected. And it is unsurprising since it is, after all, a work created in a simulator built to train US soldiers for the War in Afghanistan. This is one of the driving forces in my work: that the military is the major source of new technology, the industrial violence that is bound to the military haunts media in myriad ways, and not just overtly. There is a subtle kind of violence in the Formation works.’

With the year coming to an end there is no sign that Pailthorpe will be slowing down, with three shows still to come the artist laments it’s been a ‘massive year’. He continues, ‘ Before heading off to Paris in October 2013 for my residency in the UNSW studio at Cité. I’m working on my first curated exhibition under the NAVA Curator Mentorship Initiative with Screen Space in Melbourne, centered around artists that engage with military or ‘weaponised’ vision, opening in early April 2013. I am also currently developing work for my next solo show with Martin Browne Contemporary next year, along with some other shows in Australia and overseas.’ Amongst this heavy exhibition schedule Pailthorpe is also completing a PhD with the School of the Arts and Media at UNSW, the artist comments,  ’it is a different kind of focus than my regular exhibition practice, so it’s a nice outlet to explore new ideas and experiment at a slower pace.’

Recontres Internationales opens at the Palais de Tokyo, Paris. Beginning from November 30 before travelling onto Berlin and Madrid.

Baden Pailthorpe is a two time recipient (2011/ 12) of the New Work, Early Career Grant through the Visual Arts Board of the Australia Council.

Formation V will be in the upcoming Summer Group Exhibition at Martin Browne Contemporary, 13 – 23 December.


Image Credit: Formation V (detail) 2011, HD video, 16:9, colour, sound. 20 mins 39 sec. Courtesy of the artist and Martin Browne Contemporary, Sydney.