THE NATION’S FINEST
Artists: Haig Aivazian, I AM A BOYS CHOIR, Internet, Tara Mateik, Nam June Paik, Keith Piper, and Lillian Schwartz.
Format: 16mm film (with ChromaDepth 3-D glasses), video, and GIF
The Nation’s Finest deconstructs the athlete body – how it is used for national, political, and social agendas, and how it is viewed and re-crafted by artists (who are sometimes athletic!). In this program, we look at five decades of artists’ video and film focusing on sports, including perspectives across gender, racial, and national identities.
Nam June Paik’s Lake Placid ‘80 (1980), officially commissioned for the Olympic Winter Games, is an unruly and ecstatic video that is slyly subversive, whereas Keith Piper’s The Nation’s Finest (1990) mimics the look and tone of state propaganda with a silky, biting critique of the way predominantly white countries use black bodies in the service of national pride while simultaneously disenfranchising their black residents. Haig Aivazian’s How Great You Are O Son of the Desert! (2013) delves further into the tragic and deadly consequences of white supremacy with examples from the 2006 World Cup Final to the fields of a Parisian suburb.
Tara Mateik’s reenactment of the historic 1973 “Battle of the Sexes”, playing both “chauvinist pig” Bobby Riggs and equal pay advocate Billie Jean King, is mortared with hyper-gendered advertisements of that era. I AM A BOYS CHOIR highlights the insidious sexism of sports commentating, particularly with the objectification of female figure skaters, with panache and sarcasm. Lillian Schwartz’s computergraphic film Olympiad (1971) presents us with a nearly gender-neutralized (then, meaning on the masculine end) and anonymized symbol of an athlete to inspire and uplift.
The program begins and ends with recent GIFs of confounding skill and precision from a university cheerleader and a 19 year old monk in a deep Zen meditative state.
A Non-Zero-Sum Game is a series of events launching, and part of, INCITE Journal of Experimental Media‘s newest issue, Sports (edited by Astria Suparak and Brett Kashmere). Reflecting the issue’s multidisciplinary range, the events take place in varied spaces including bookstores, galleries, and cinemas.
- Two Finger Kung Fu
Internet. c. 2009, GIF, silent, 5 sec. total (played 3 times).
- Lake Placid ‘80
Nam June Paik. 1980, video, 4 min.
- Putting the Balls Away
Tara Mateik. 2008, video, 19 min.
- The Nation’s Finest
Keith Piper. 1990, video, 7 min.
- demonstrating the imaginary body
I AM A BOYS CHOIR. 2015, video, 12 min. (excerpt from 28 min.)
- How Great You Are O Son of the Desert!, Part I
Haig Aivazian. 2013, video, 26 min.
Lillian Schwartz. 1971, 16mm film, 2.5 min. (Optional: ChromaDepth 3-D glasses.)
- Half-Court Flip Basketball Shot
Internet. 2013, GIF, silent, approx. 5 sec. total (played 3 times).
“Employing sport as a framework, the artists present sport-like/sport-ish performances and videos to ask questions about gender roles, nationalism, anger, and resulting violence in contemporary society. Overall, these artists demonstrate that the actions of sport — gesticulations both in, around, and through the actual game — are inherently political. […] The Nation’s Finest is a positive representation of the interrogation of sport and art, further increasing scholarship on the evolving relationship between these cultural siblings.” – Jacqueline Surdell, Conversations at the Edge Blog, April 12, 2018
Screenings of The Nation’s Finest were part of INCITE Journal of Experimental Media‘s launch events for Sports, and accompanied by an illustrated preview of the issue, presented by Astria Suparak and Brett Kashmere.
March 22, 7pm
@ Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, OH
This screening was accompanied by Expanding the Field: Sports and Culture, a discussion with Hanif Abdurraqib, author of They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us; Ohio State Department of Human Sciences Professor Samuel Hodge, coeditor of Black Males and Intercollegiate Athletics: An Exploration of Problems and Solutions, and visual artist and writer Carmen Winant (March 22, 4pm); a month-long installation of How Great You Are O Son of the Desert!, Part I by Haig Aivazian (March 1-31), and a book launch.
April 6, 4pm
@ Pitzer College, Benson Auditorium, Claremont, CA
Followed by a reception. Presented by Intercollegiate Media Studies, the Scripps’ J.C. Harper Lecture Funds, and Pomona Media Studies.
April 12, 6pm
@ Conversations at the Edge at the Gene Siskel Film Center, Chicago
May 9, 7pm
@ University of California, Santa Cruz, Studio C, Communications Building
Part of Trust the Process: Experiments with Sports, a seven-part series programmed by Brett Kashmere co-presented by Wednesday Night Cinema Society and Film and Digital Media Department, cosponsored by The Center for Documentary Arts and Research (CDAR).
More dates to be announced.