Shifting the goalposts

A philosophical look at sport

Gabrielle de Vietri, Three teams (still) 2013-14 dual-channel HD video.  Courtesy of the artist.

Gabrielle de Vietri, Three teams (still) 2013-14 dual-channel HD video. Courtesy of the artist.

Gabrielle de Vietri, Three teams (still) 2013-14 dual-channel HD video. Courtesy of the artist.

Sport has long been embedded in our lives.

Whether we are in the grandstand donning our team’s colours, or unavoidably in earshot of chanting echoing through the neighbourhood come Saturday night — it is an inescapable symbol of Australian culture.

It wasn’t until I walked through the front rooms of The University of Queensland Art Museum’s exhibition Play On: The art of sport that I was prompted to ask myself the question: does sport have a deeper purpose?

Straying from popular interpretations of sport, female artists Lauren Brincat, Gabrielle de Vietri, Tarryn Gill and Pilar Mata Dupont use video installation to delve into philosophical branches of ethics, rules, and social politics.

Considering public participation is an integral part of sport, is there a moral responsibility for spectators to consider the mental and physical extremes athletes subject themselves to?

Too often, viewers sit on their couches, watching with satisfaction as an athlete’s failure is broadcast in slow motion.

Combining 1970s feminist endurance art and ethics, Lauren Brincat’s 10 Metre Platform (2012) exposes the voyeuristic nature of sports spectatorship.

As you stand in front of her video, you don’t notice Brincat’s movements at first, but as time passes you cannot help watching with dread and excruciation as the artist attempts to lower herself from the Alberca Olimpa Francisco Marquez diving platform.

The examination of this behaviour allows Brincat to question the morality of spectatorship in sport; forcing us to contemplate the way in which we view athletes as symbolic beings rather than humans capable of failure.

Left: Lauren Brincat , 10 metre platform (still) 2012 , single-channel HD video. Courtesy of the artist and Anna Schwartz Gallery, Melbourne

Just as viewers distance themselves from the physical and mental efforts of athletes, often our idealised version of sport is one separate from issues experienced in our daily lives and social climate.

This distance has been breached by the ongoing racial debate occurring in the United States with the ‘taking a knee’ protest.

Many have argued that politics should remain outside sporting events, however, in their work Gymnasium (2010), Tarryn Gill and Pilar Mata Dupont remind us that sport has long been attached to politics.

Gymnasium refers to sport’s Ancient Grecian roots, where politicians used athletics as a way to prevail dominance over rivalling cities.

The video installation draws upon Fascist physical culture that dictated an athlete’s body was a tool for the state.

Gill and Mata Dupont demonstrate, through the synchronised exercises of white men and women and the unsettling cheerful background music, that the history of sport is a murky terrain of socio-political issues.

Tarryn Gill and Pilar Mata Dupont Gymnasium 2010, single-channel HD video. Courtesy of the artists.

The ways in which societies govern citizens under laws isn’t so distant from the conduct rules of sport.

Sporting foundations are built upon collective understandings of regulations that uphold fairness and integrity.

Three Teams (2013-14) by Gabrielle de Vietri examines the philosophy of rules to demonstrate how individuals react to a dismantled set of constitutive guidelines.

After watching her first live football game, de Vietri pondered on the need for binary teams within sport.

Her hypothesis was to create a functioning AFL game played by three teams, and to do so she sought the help and expertise of people from the town of Horsham, Victoria.

The Horsham community makes a constant effort to create a fair match, contradictory to the belief that, without structured regulations, competition would erupt into chaos.

De Vietri’s documentary acts as a microscope for human dynamics, capturing the essence of community in sport and its adaptability to expand beyond conventional methods of understanding.

Gabrielle de Vietri, Three teams (still) 2013-14 dual-channel HD video. Courtesy of the artist.

Within the exhibition Play On: the art of sport, artists Lauren Brincat, Gabrielle de Vietri, Tarryn Gill and Pilar Mata Dupont use art to propagate sport’s often-neglected role to reflect upon wider societal issues.

Play On: The art of sport

University of Queensland Art Museum

until  9 February

Full image details:

Gabrielle de Vietri, Three teams (still) 2013-14 Dual-channel HD video, 16:9 ratio, colour, sound, not synched. Camera and sound: Kiarash Zangeneh, Lydia Springhall, James Phillips and Filip Milovac.  Video editor: Lydia Springhall. Project assistant: Renae Fomiatti. 30:07 minutes. Courtesy of the artist.

Brittany-Lea Traverso

Lauren Brincat, 10 metre platform (still, detail) 2012 Single-channel HD video, 9:16 ratio, colour, sound. Camera: Rafael Ortega. 50:29 minutes Courtesy of the artist and Anna Schwartz Gallery, Melbourne.

Tarryn Gill and Pilar Mata Dupont, Gymnasium (still) 2010 Single-channel HD video, sound. 3:52 minutes. Courtesy of the artists and Sophie Gannon Collection of Basil Sellers AM.

Gabrielle de Vietri, Three teams (still) 2013-14 Dual-channel HD video, 16:9 ratio, colour, sound, not synched. Camera and sound: Kiarash Zangeneh, Lydia Springhall, James Phillips and Filip Milovac.  Video editor: Lydia Springhall. Project assistant: Renae Fomiatti. 30:07 minutes. Courtesy of the artist.