The Human Cannonball Painting

The Human Cannonball Painting. Performed by the Svyatoslav Gabuda as the Human Paintbrush and directed by Søren Dahlgaard.
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Images: The Human Cannonball Painting.

HEART – Herning Museum of Contemporary Art, Denmark commissioned Søren Dahlgaard to produce the first-ever Human Cannonball painting in front of an audience in August 2021, as part of the Socle du Monde Biennale.

The Human Cannonball Painting was performed by a professional stuntman, Svyatoslav Gabuda, acting as the Human Paintbrush and directed by Søren Dahlgaard. 5 shoots were made in total over two days. Soaring 10 meters above the ground while travelling 100 km/h, The Human Cannonball journeys the 25-meter distance in 2 seconds before landing on a 5 x 6-meter canvas. For each shot, a new canvas was placed on the net and the Human Cannonball wore a new paintbrush outfit with different colours.

Why paint this way? The idea behind The Human Cannonball Painting is to demonstrate how the method can be more important than the painting. With The Human Cannonball Painting project, the artwork is the process itself. And the process consists of all the elements, which are, the experience of witnessing the action, the collaboration between the human cannonball stuntman and the artist, as well as the photographs, videos and canvasses.

The painting technique of The Human Cannonball Painting addresses painting and the history of painting in particular and on a more general note how we do things in life. The Human Cannonball Painting celebrates chaos and the impossibility of controlling how the paint marks on the canvas turn out. The cheekiness of The Human Paintbrush slapstick method furthermore addresses today’s mainstream and unhealthy ideals of control and perfection in looks and appearance in life.

The Human Cannonball project builds on the history and aesthetics of historic action paintings by artists such as Kazuo Shiraga of the Japanese Gutai group from the 1950s as well as Yves Klein and Piero Manzoni of the 1960s and Matthew Barney and Paul McCarthey’s action paintings in the 1990s. These artists added physical restraints and extensions to the body in different ways, thus developing new painting techniques where the process of painting became more important than the final canvas. The aesthetics of Dahlgaards Human Paintbrush techniques furthermore draw on Buster Keaton slap-stick stunts of the 1920s.

Videos of The Human Paintbrush recorded 2000 frames per second