Weekly digest – 10.06.20
“Loughborough? I thought that was just sport?”
We’ve all heard it. More times than we’d care to admit, probably. In weaker moments we might wonder whether it would really be so bad if someone else won BUCS for a change.
Despite not picking up a ball in anger for a significant proportion of my life, I quite like Loughborough’s sportiness. Don’t tell my boss, but last summer I went off to check on some of our campus sculpture and ended up watching Australia’s women’s cricket team playing an Ashes warm-up match for a good twenty minutes. My patience was tested, mind you, when I had to park miles away from the office for a couple of weeks because the England Netball Team had bagseyd all the spaces for a training camp on campus.
Sport and art aren’t necessarily opposed. Over the years our contemporary arts programme Radar has commissioned a number of artists who’ve responded to the University’s sporting excellence, facilities and research. Back in 2007 the sound artist Janek Schafer performed a concert in the David Wallace Sports Hall. Framed by a handball goal he played ‘The Sporting Guide to the Speed of Sound’, a work that included the sound of various balls being bounced and rolling across the floor. You can hear the work here. In 2011, Radar commissioned a programme called ‘Human Condition/ing’, for which the artists Revital Cohen and Jacqueline Donachie drew on Sports Science research to create playful, subversive and gently humorous works. (You can hear Donachie talking about her arts practice as part of the University’s Arts Week on Monday 22nd June.)
The campus art collection shows the influence of sport too. Awaiting restoration in store is a large Bryan Organ oil painting abstractly depicting the motion of a horse race. Ian Tricker’s sculpture in Shirley Pearce Square shows the influence of the Olympic Torch, which passed through campus in 2010; while one of the Willi Soukop frieze panels on the Brockington Building depicts students running and swimming, testament to the importance of sport on campus back in 1952, when it was commissioned. Student works in the collection, meanwhile, have also engaged with sport: Alice Cox won the 2015 Edward Sharp Prize for her photographic essay on Loughborough student welfare campaigner and athlete Ella Gibbons (who went on to represent Scotland in the 2019 Netball World Cup).
It’s not just at Loughborough where artists have shown an interest in sport, of course. Sometimes these interests have even involved reimagining sports or developing new ones. Wu-Tang Clan fans will be familiar with the concept of chess boxing, a hybrid sport that’s developed out of a project by the performance artist Iepe Rubingh. In recent years a number of games of ‘three-sided football’ have been played. Proposed in 1962 by the artist Asger Jorn, this was first played in the 1990s by anarchist-inspired collectives looking to create situations which created new forms of social relation and, crucially, are fun. In 2013 the artist Gabrielle de Vietri applied the idea to Australian Rules Football.
These projects question the boundaries between art and sport and, by implication, between the way we divide up life more broadly. Although ‘art’ and ‘sport’ have existed across history and cultures, it’s only with the advent of modernity that they have become seen as separate spheres of social life. I’ve seen performance artworks which consist of a series of futile gestures made with the human body which have left me exquisitely bored and strangely invigorated. But that’s also a description I could apply to a lot of the cricket I’ve watched. Perhaps I was engaging with art when I watched that cricket match on campus after all…
Programme Co-Ordinator, LU Arts
The Limit showcases the creativity that exists within the student population, creating a sense of community.