Art & Football
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The 1982 FIFA World Cup (also known as España 82) was the 12th FIFA (Federation Internationale de Football Association) World Cup, and was held in Madrid, Spain from June 13th to July 11th of 1982. The football (futbol/soccer) tournament was won by Italy, who defeated West Germany 3-1 during the final match. Each host city in Spain was commissioned to create a unique poster commemorating the event.
Spanish artists were commissioned to design the posters for the 1982 World Cup finals in Spain, one for each city the tournament was in. Eduardo Chillida created the poster for Bilbao, Antoni Tapiès for Barcelona, Gerard Titus-Carmel for Gijón, Vladimir Veličković for Valladolid, Gudmundur Erró for La Cornuña, Jiří Kolář for Elche, Pol Bury for Oviedo, Antonio Saura for Seville, Roland Topor for Malaga, Valerio Adami for Valencia, Michel Folon for Zaragoza, and Eduardo Arroyo for Madrid. Miro was commissioned to create the official artwork for the entire event rather than for a single city.
Miró’s attachment to the landscape of Mont-roig first and then Majorca was crucial in his work. His connection to the land and his interest in everyday objects and in the natural environment formed the backdrop to some of his technical and formal research. Miró avoided academicism in his constant quest for a pure, global art that could not be classified under any specific movement. Self-contained in his manners and public expressions, it is through art that Joan Miró showed his rebelliousness and a strong sensitivity to the political and social events around him. These conflicting forces led him to create a unique and extremely personal language that makes him one of the most influential artists of the 20th century.
The 1982 World Cup in Spain marked a watershed moment in the commercialisation of football TV rights. Prior to the tournament TV rights were offered to anyone who wished to broadcast the matches for free. 1982 ushered in the era of tournament corporate sponsors and the commercialisation of TV rights close to their actual value.
La Boule de Feu
Born on October 19, 1927, in Brussels, Pierre Alechinsky grew up with varied artistic interests that included graphic techniques, folk art, and medieval book illustrations. From 1944 to 1948 he studied art at the École nationale supérieure d'architecture et des arts décoratifs (La cambre), Brussels. Alechinsky joined the group Jeune Peinture Belge (also known as Jonge Belgische Schilderkunst, young Belgian painters, 1945–48) and had his first solo exhibition in the Galerie Lou Cosyn, Brussels, in 1947. During a stay in Paris in 1948, he was deeply impressed by the work of Jean Dubuffet and Max Ernst, feeling particularly drawn to the former's Art Brut. In March 1949, Alechinsky visited an exhibition featuring artists from the CoBrA group (1948–51) at the Séminaire des arts, an experience that would have a lasting effect. Formed by painters from Copenhagen, Brussels, and Amsterdam, the movement distinguished itself through bold, expressive compositions inspired by folk and children's art, as well as by the work of Paul Klee and Joan Miró.
From 1949 to 1951, Alechinsky devoted himself so intensely to CoBrA—organizing exhibitions and running the group's eponymous magazine (eight issues, 1949–51)—that he produced little work of his own. His distinctive use of script as a means of pictorial expression came out of his exposure to Cobra artists such as Karel Appel and Asger Jorn, and in 1951 he moved to Paris to study engraving.
Around 1958, his subject matter became more fantastic in nature, and he began using brightly colored acrylics to render comically deformed creatures that often communicate via speech bubbles. The creatures recall Hieronymus Bosch, Pieter Brueghel, and James Ensor—Flemish painters that Alechinsky admires and to whom he sometimes pays homage in his paintings.
'The Ball of Fire (La boule de feu) from Hayterophilies 1986' was created by Pierre Alechinsky in Tachisme style. The term Tachisme (tachism) describes a style of abstract painting characterized by the use of spots, blotches or stains of colour (tache is French for spot or splash). Popular during the late 1940s and 1950s, this style of abstract art is part of (and to this extent synonymous with) the broader movement of Art Informel: the only difference is that Tachisme is focused exclusively on the type of expressive gesture used by the artist.
Harun Farocki’s work Deep Play is made up of various perspectives on the final of the 2006 World Cup. We see the 'clean feed,' the television networks’ raw material. We see individual players on both teams, but also abstract computer-generated representations of the flow of play. The intelligent network of relationships among players who are kicking, passing, receiving the ball and running—a network that absorbs spontaneous individual decisions as well as tactical ideas and habits rooted in the culture of the game—is endlessly complex given the size of the field. This roughly corresponds to the range of possible constellations offered by a group of guppies in a mid-sized aquarium.
This may be sublime, but it also makes us sad. However the game is not only classified, assessed and transferred to other systems, for example by trusted experts who analyze and evaluate all quantifiable events. We also experience the majestic calm of a summer’s day as it draws to a close above the Olympic Stadium. We hear many soundtracks, from the police radio to the words of TV production teams from all over the world, alternating between commanding, consequential speech and contemplative reflections on events. Above all, what we experience is how the laboratory of football is able to exhibit the most advanced technology in the production and presentation of moving images. All fans and followers of simulation and documentation, movies, TV and computer games start running a little warmer as they watch. We see how eerily close the wishes of the consumers, the trainers and the police really are to each other. Just as they are in real life.
One of the reasons the World Cup of 2006 became so significant was the excellent portfolio of goals that it had. Ranging from long-range screamers to well-worked team moves, the month-long extravaganza provided an array of fantastic goals. A quarter of the teams participating in the 2006 event were debutantes, so it was highly likely that there would be at least one of the less-fancied sides having a campaign to remember. Angola, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Togo and Trinidad and Tobago were making their finals debut, while the Czech Republic, Ukraine and Serbia and Montenegro were partaking in the competition for the first time as independent nations, having previously been represented as part of Czechoslovakia, Soviet Union and Yugoslavia.
The award of the 2006 World Cup was made in July 2000 and the nations bidding to host the tournament were; Germany, South Africa, England and Morocco, Brazil having withdrawn their bid. After three rounds of voting Germany was awarded the finals, ahead of South Africa. That left 198 national teams from all six populated continents to begin the qualification process in September 2003 which was to end with 31 qualifiers plus the host nation. The success of the German bid, however, was marred by a hoax bribery affair which even led to calls for a re-vote. The night before the final vote the German satirical magazine Titanic sent letters to FIFA representatives offering joke gifts such as cuckoo clocks and Black Forest ham in exchange for their votes to favor Germany.
Oceania delegate Charles Dempsey, who had initially backed England, was then instructed to support South Africa following England’s elimination. Dempsey abstained citing ‘ intolerable pressure’ on the eve of the vote. Had Dempsey voted as originally instructed the vote would have tied at 12-12 and FIFA President Sepp Blatter, who favored South Africa, would have had to cast the deciding vote which would have caused international problems that would still resound today.
Since the 1990s both artists and activists have turned to the playful tactics of the Situationist International (SI) for inspiration in combating the listless inertia of an utterly commodified art world and an ever more ossified and ineffectual political system. The SI has thus become well-known for championing a certain idea of play against the spectacular division of time and space into compartments of work and leisure. Play not simply as a form of free activity, pre-existing the abstractions and mediation of the commodity form, but also the diversion of existing, already mediated and abstracted activities in new directions. In this sense, despite the way it has been interpreted by many of its more recent interlocutors, play for the SI is less some positive, authentic state, or an escape to a vital “outside,” but more a negative dialectical move, towards the supersession of both work and leisure into a higher form of living—to live without dead time, as they famously proclaimed. This is something evident throughout the SI’s programme: from psychogeography to détournement, to the construction of situations.
This invention of more formalized games has generated increasing attention in recent years, Guy Debord’s Game of War, which he once described as his greatest achievement, is one such example. It has gained growing recognition as a pedagogical tool for the playing out of strategic questions. Debord’s Kreigspeil has been proposed as a kind of détournement, of those imperialist, so-called “war games” one imagines being undertaken in the bunkers of military strategists somewhere, as they model various scenarios for carving up continents between competing powers—it is not for nothing that in the nineteenth century, the struggle between the British and Russian Empires for control of Central Asia was known as “the Great Game.” Debord’s game, it is held, functions as a similar kind of modeling exercise, in which the universal is made to appear within the particular, and macro-strategic machinations are metonymically played out upon the microcosmic terrain of the game board. In this sense, quite in keeping with Debord’s Hegelianism, his game can be seen as fundamentally dialectical. It is interesting to note that Clausewitz played cards with Hegel.
In 1962, another onetime situationist, Danish artist Asger Jorn proposed the metaphor of three-sided football in order to illustrate his theory of “triolectics:” a response to what he saw as the restrictions of dialectical materialism. In doing so he unwittingly invented another situationist game, but one that provides a fascinating contrast to that of his former comrade. Far from describing the game as his greatest legacy, Jorn never actually envisaged it being played at all. For him it was a purely theoretical model, describing already existing dynamics as he observed them.
The Triolectic Football game is played on a hexagonal pitch and consists of three teams contesting three roughly twenty-minute “halves,” during which the object is to concede as few goals as possible. Games are characterized by their fluidity, swift reversals of fortune and the rapid formation and dissolution of alliances. This open, yet strategic dimension has led to the game being described as a cross between conventional association football, chess and poker.
Everyman His Own Football
One of the most influential of early dada publications was the ‘journal’ by the Berlin Dadaists, Jedermann Sein Eigner Fussball or ‘Everyman His Own Football.’ It is worthy to note this Dada Ball publication, for its timing, its iconoclastic appearance and its influence, direct or indirect.
In January 1917, Richard Huelsenbeck arrived from Zurich in Berlin, having been part of Dada’s Cabaret Voltaire. While the people of Zurich ‘sat in the restaurants with well-filled wallets and rosy cheeks,’ Berlin was experiencing the collapse of social order under the pressure of the First World War. The German economy was collapsing with the Imperial Army of Wilhelm II failing to sustain the war effort and prevent the waves of hunger among its citizens. For Huelsenbeck, Berlin was a ‘city of tightened stomachers, of mounting, thundering hunger, where hidden rage was transformed into a boundless money lust, and men’s minds were concentrating more and more on questions of naked existence.’
During the war years, many ‘humour’ journals printed in Germany had proliferated and became important means of spreading political ideas. The satirical nature of such liberal and socialist journals as Simplicissimus, Ulk (‘Joke’) and Der Wahre Jacob (‘The True Jacob’) had been changed by the First World War and strongly supported the war effort. In the months after the War, these traditional journals adopted a largely conservative position toward the political events. With the increasing disorder following Germany’s defeat in November 1918, an array of right-wing ‘humour’ journals started to appear, starting with Phosphor, Rote Hand (‘Red Hand’) and Satyr.
Jedermann Sein Eigner Fussball was only four pages long and only a single issue was produced, but it was the most concise collection of work by the Berlin Dadaists. John Heartfield designed the journal and created two photomontages for the cover. Photomontage was first developed by the Berlin Dadaists, although there is dispute over its invention. Hausmann and Höch claimed that photomontage was the pictorial extension of the static, simultaneous and phonetic poetry of Zurich Dada, developed on holiday on the Baltic Sea. On the other hand, Grosz and Heartfield claimed that in May 1916, they ‘pasted a mishmash of advertisements… cut up at will in such a way as to say, in pictures, what would have been banned by the censors if we had said it in words.’ Hausmann’s photomontages were often random and aesthetically ‘wild and explosive,’ while Heartfield’s works were classically composed, laden with revolutionary political expression. Both styles have been widely influential and the photomontages are distinctly recognisable as works of the Berlin Dadaists. As Hans Richter wrote, ‘they have been imitated and copied by thousands who have pocketed the financial rewards always denied to Hausmann and Heartfield, the creative artists.’
The cover parodied the layout of the conservative journals. In conjunction with the title, a sarcastic interpretation of the statesmen’s promise of ‘a chicken in every pot,’ photo-monteur Heartfield spliced a picture of his brother Wieland in formal wear with a football, tilting his hat to the saying ‘everyman his own football.’ The main photomontage depicted a fan, a vanity item popular in the 19th century, with portraits of the ruling elite. Alongside the Ebert-Scheidemann group, who controlled the Reichstag, the montage included Karl Kautsky, one of the founders of German social democracy (who V.I. Lenin had called a ‘renegade’ and ‘bourgeois reformist’) and General Ludendorff, leader of the Supreme Command of the Imperial Army and future participant in the Nazi putsch of 1923, as well as other military leaders. A caption above it read: ‘Open Competition! Who’s the prettiest??’ while below: ‘German Manly Beauty #1.’ This ‘beauty competition’ for the ‘gifted beer bellies’ was in reference to the opening of the First National Assembly of the Weimar Republic that had opened only a week beforehand. The cover was the beginning of Heartfield’s use of photomontages in a coherent aesthetic, departing from the random structures of earlier montages. As Wieland stated, ‘In it he began for the first time to use photography consciously in the service of political agitation.’
Hysteria Makes History
Since the 1950s, from Europe to Brazil, from North America to Japan, a dense network of poets and artists has given birth to an extensive body of new visual forms in poetry that have revolutionized accepted notions of linguistic production by attaching increasing value to the “verbivocovisual” (Joyce, 1939) nature of words. Traced back to the legacy of Futurist free-word compositions, Dadaist mixed-media poetry, Lettrist and Surrealist photo-collages, the broader and eclectic field of poetic concretism and visuality spans different traditions and locations and designates an international, intercultural, and multilingual movement that is both artistic and literary.
In Italy, this critical and paradigm shift in the concept of poetry took the name of poesia tecnologica (Gruppo 63, 1963-69) and poesia visiva, which, since their inception in the early 1960 (Gruppo 70, 1963-68) and their distinctive manifestations during the 1970s (Gruppo Internazionale di Poesia Visiva, also known as Gruppo dei Nove, 1972-79), enacted “a real semiotic guerrilla war.”
Closely related to counterculture and social activism, these forms created intermedia dialogues between poetry, technology, and the products of consumer society by introducing political tensions in the poetic body through the collage of words and images taken from mass culture (advertisements, magazines, photographs, graphic novels, and so on).
In 1965, Paul De Vree described this hybrid dimension as a form of “integratie poëzie” (De Tafelronde X/I, 1965) by advocating the groundbreaking principle whereby “de kunsten zijn met elkaar in fusie getreden” (“the arts have entered into a fusion”), while Dick Higgins (Dé-collage no. 6, 1967) and Adriano Spatola (Geiger no. 5, 1972) defined it as “intermedia.” In Profilo storico della poesia visiva (1972), Sarenco and De Vree called for an aesthetic and cultural integration of knowledge in poetry and grounded it firmly in the soil of ideological commitment.
De Vree generally incorporates photographic material in his poesia visiva in the form of collages, occasionally accompanied by an ironic or satirical commentary, which is intended to address the viewer’s conscience and awareness by triggering a range of associations. In Hysteria Makes History (1973), De Vree’s targets are the masses and idolatry in sport. De Vree here exposes the sensationalism with which the media manipulate facts and emotions.
The Revolution of Everyday Life
“We can escape the commonplace only by manipulating it, controlling it, thrusting it into our dreams or surrendering it to the free play of our subjectivity.”
Raoul Vaneigem grew up in the wake of World War II in a working-class, socialist, and anticlerical milieu. He studied Romance philology at the Free University of Brussels and embarked on a teaching career that he later abandoned in favor of writing.
“A society based on organised survival can only tolerate false, spectacular forms of play. But given the crisis of the spectacle, playfulness, distorted in every imaginable way, is being reborn everywhere. To play means to refuse leaders, self-sacrifice and roles, to embrace every form of self-realisation and to be utterly, painfully, honest with all one's friends.
Every game has two preconditions: the rules of playing and playing with the rules. Watch children at play. They know the rules of the game, they can remember them perfectly well but they never stop breaking them, they never stop dreaming up new ways of breaking them."
In late 1960 Vaneigem was introduced to Guy Debord by Henri Lefebvre, and soon after he joined the Situationist International, which Debord and his comrades-in-arms had founded not long before, and he remained in the group throughout the decade of the 1960s. There is a grain of truth in the stereotypical view that Debord and Vaneigem, as two leading lights of the SI, stood for two opposite poles of the movement: the objective Debord versus the subjective Vaneigem: Marxism versus anarchism: icy cerebrality versus sensualism: and, of course, The Society of the Spectacle versus The Revolution of Everyday Life—the two major programmatic books of the SI, written by the two men without consultation, both published in 1967, each serving in its own way to kindle and color the May 1968 uprisings in France.
Originally published just months before the May 1968 upheavals in France, Raoul Vaneigem’s The Revolution of Everyday Life offered a lyrical and aphoristic critique of the “society of the spectacle” from the point of view of individual experience. Whereas Debord’s masterful analysis of the new historical conditions that triggered the uprisings of the 1960s armed the revolutionaries of the time with theory, Vaneigem’s book described their feelings of desperation directly, and armed them with “formulations capable of firing point-blank on our enemies.”
For “To desire a different life is already that life in the making.” And “fulfillment is expressed in the singular but conjugated in the plural.”
A peculiar thing happened in Russia in the early 1920s. Abstract art, often considered the pinnacle of elitism and high art, was instead employed by artists as a testing ground for ideas that promised to change society for the better. In 1928, Russian artist Varvara Stepanova (1894-1958) designed a unisex sports uniform with a striking geometric design that accentuated the movement of the athlete. Stepanova’s design was characterized by a fundamental honesty; her textile prints drew attention to the material quality of fabric, including the weave of thread and the shape of the material in its simplest form. Her clothing design responded to how the body moves in space, considering the function of the clothing above aesthetics—with no superfluous elements that might detract from the pure fundamentals of how the fabric and garment would be used.
This utilitarian, no-waste ethos was at the heart of Stepanova’s ideas about “construction.” Stepanova created uniforms for specialist workers, actors and athletes, each designed to best accommodate the physical movements of the wearer. Strong geometric lines emphasized the garment’s structure including the seams, pockets, buttons, fabric bias and weave. The results were striking with bold color contrasts and optical flickers in the fabric print that force us to look again and more closely. The finished items were theatrical in spite of their strict logic, partly because of the literal intentions and partly because of the almost absurd link between abstract art and useful design.
Les Grands Footballeurs
In 1952, the painter Nicolas de Staël came out dazzled from a night game at the Parc des Princes and decided to devote a series of paintings to football. The friendly match between the French team and Sweden took place at the Parc des Princes in a somewhat special context: It was the first time a football match was played at night, under spotlights. De Staël was so taken by the pitch under the lights that he spent the whole night trying to reproduce on canvas what he saw. ‘I’ve put the whole French and Swedish teams to work,’ Nicolas de Staël excitedly told a friend upon starting the project.
The painter described how he felt in a letter addressed to his friend the poet René Char: "Between heaven and earth, on the red or blue grass, an acrobatic tonne of muscle flew in abandon, forgetting itself entirely in the paradoxical concentration this requires.’ He maintained that he might easily have painted 200 canvases of the match. De Staël had been impressed not just by the energy and movements of the players, but the rich array of colors, too—the blue and red of the kits, like the green grass of the pitch, being brightly illuminated against the black night sky. What truly set de Staël apart from his contemporaries was the step he took beyond abstraction. This came in 1952 with his football works, which marked a small but hugely significant move towards representation, achieving a synthesis between the abstract and the figurative.
Dynamic of the Metropolis
Encompassing around twenty titles, city symphonies rely heavily upon montage to represent a cross-section of life in the modern metropolis. They typically are set in one or more identifiable metropoles whose population, central thoroughfares, and places of residence, employment, and leisure they depict over the course of a day. Yet such works resist categorization as documentary, experimental, or narrative film. Their interest resides in the cinematographic preservation of ephemeral urban life, no less than an aesthetic structure that itself evokes the rhythms, parallels, and contrasts of metropolitan civilization. Yet despite the abundance of scholarship on the city films of the 1920s there remains a key text in its history that largely has been ignored: László Moholy-Nagy’s unfilmed scenario ‘Dynamic of the Metropolis.’
The eye wanders across the page, grasping the meaning of individual words and lines as well as the composed shapes they contribute to the poetic effect of the whole. More than merely a storyboard for an unrealized film, both the Hungarian and German versions of DM suggest themselves as kinetic works of visual and verbal poetry that mimic the dynamism of their subject, the city.
On the second page of the scenario, Moholy-Nagy introduces a recurrent motif. The word ‘tempo’ appears repeatedly throughout, as if to maintain the proper rhythm for the film. Recalling the similar practice of indicating on a musical score the correct speed for its performance, its repetition in DM in the most graphically varied forms (vertical, horizontal, detached) serves to convey dynamism. Sometimes, as on the fourth page, the division of the word into its constituent syllables and their nonsensical reiteration evokes the poetic experimentation of his close friend Kurt Schwitters. Linguistic signifier and its signified are pulled apart to reveal their intrinsically arbitrary relation masked by convention.
“The intention of the film “Dynamic of the Metropolis” is not to teach, nor to moralise, nor to tell a story; its effect is meant to be visual, purely visual. The elements of the visual have not in this film an absolute logical connection with one another; their photographic, visual relationships, nevertheless, make them knit together into a vital association of events in space and time and bring the viewer actively into the dynamic of the city.” - Laszlo Moholy-Nagy
Hans Magnus Enzensberger can, at times, seem more a collection of thoughts of the old Bundesrepublik than one personality, making it possible to revisit an entire generation’s disruptions through him. His poetry is intelligent and pointed in the tradition of Brecht, humanely political and generously engaged. The poems have the ease and the lightness of real mastery. They are moral in their insistence that human life can be lived well or badly, that it is up to us to choose well and to act wisely. Enzensberger is now writing with an increasing awareness of mortality, yet addresses social and political dangers and evils with undiminished urgency.
In his literary theory on power and media, he writes:
“When I say mobilize I mean mobilize. In a country that has had direct experience of fascism (and Stalinism), it is perhaps still necessary to explain, or to explain again, what that means—namely, to make men more mobile than they are. As free as dancers, as aware as football players, as surprising as guerrillas. Anyone who thinks of the masses only as the object of politics cannot mobilize. He wants to push them around. A parcel not mobile; it can only be pushed to and fro. Marches, columns, parades, immobilize people. Propaganda, which does not release self-reliance but limits it, fits into the same pattern. It leads to depoliticization.”
Enzensberger also invented and collaborated in the construction of a machine which automatically composes poems. It was used during the 2006 Football World Cup to commentate on games.
Painterly Realism of a Football Player—Color Masses in the 4th Dimension
During the summer and fall of 1915, Kazimir Malevich secluded himself to prepare for the groundbreaking exhibition 0.10 (Zero-Ten) The Last Futurist Exhibition of Paintings. Seeking to push the formal discoveries of Cubism and Futurism to their limits, to find the most essential core—the “zero”—of painting, Malevich produced a series of completely abstract works that he declared constituted an entirely new system of art. Suprematism, as he called the new style, eradicated all references to the natural world and focused instead on the inherent relationships between colored geometric shapes against the void of a subtly textured white background.
In the exhibition catalog he warned, “In naming some of the paintings I do not wish to point out what form to seek in them, but I wish to indicate that real forms were approached in many cases as the ground for formless painterly masses from which a painterly picture was created, quite unrelated to nature.” Painterly Realism of a Football Player—Color Masses in the 4th Dimension belongs to this very first group of Suprematist works. The subtitle refers to the mathematical theory of fourth dimensional space, a concept appropriated by many early twentieth-century artists to justify their representation of truths beyond immediate sensory perception.