Baden Pailthorpe: Cadence

War in saturated HD. Video art at its most stylish.
Lauren Carroll Harris
Published on July 29, 2013


For a moment, inside Cadence, I feel I’ve landed in Call of Duty, one of those teenage, first-person shooter games. Then I’m inside a type of war-themed dancehall, then a Yun-Fat Chow movie of black ops and modern warfare. Camouflaged soldiers from Australia, the US and Afghanistan are ripping and bending across desert and tarmac. Every move leaves an imprint, which tracks itself symmetrically across the screen to form thick and fast tribal medallions.

This new four-panel video work is Cadence by Baden Pailthorpe, the inaugural artist-in-residence at the Australian War Memorial, Canberra. He’s a different kind of war artist, concerned less with conflict and experience of war than its aesthetics and technology. Pailthorpe stamps out the gritty brashness of battle, replacing it with a subtle meditative quality and a super coolness: war in saturated HD, video art at its most stylish.

Wherever I am, this is a weirdly sexy and bloodless war game. I’m not sure what that says politically, but it’s a seductive piece of media. This is the art of now — glossy and sleek with an undercurrent of zooming ADHD action.

You can get a sense from this vimeo preview that Pailthorpe’s work is design meets simulated gaming meets contemporary video art. "Cadence" is the perfect name. Dance rhythms replace gunfire and a steady-pulsing kinetic energy make it all softly hypnotic, and slowly addictive. Cadence shows new media art is, at its best, as conceptually developed and skillfully executed as traditional disciplines. What you can’t get from the online preview is a sense of the lush, Twin Peaks-ish soundtrack.

Beautifully crafted and elegantly choreographed, Cadence’s video-art cousin could be Daniel Crooks' Static No.12 (remember it from the 17th Biennale of Sydney?), just as appropriately subtitled “seek stillness in movement”. The military body in action has never seemed so lovely.


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