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Tag Archives: Basil Sellers Art Prize

Gladwell’s Reversed Readymade

Turning and spinning are themes that Sean Gladwell’s art revolves around; as in his video Storm Sequence where he spins around on his skateboard. So it is not surprising that his VR art, Reversed Readymade makes heads turn.

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In fact you can turn a full 360 degrees in a VR of an actual warehouse studio while seated in an office chair. It makes you feel very much in control of the VR experience, even if you are stuck in one spot, because you can turn your back on things.

Gladwell’s Reversed Readymade is a beautiful use of VR technology with a big reference to Marcel Duchamp. This is both the most direct and complete Duchamp reference that I have ever seen (I did my Master’s thesis on Duchamp so I have seen a lot). Gladwell takes Marcel Duchamp’s first readymade, Bicycle Wheel and makes it his own.

Gladwell actually makes it his own, making his own bicycle wheel mounted on a stool and then rides it around, spinning around in a circle in the studio. The six minute VR experience depicts this along with some bicycle riding.

Marcel Duchamp had the idea of a reverse readymade. It was a reciprocal arrangement to his readymades, where an existing work of art would be used as an ordinary object. “A Rembrandt used as an ironing board” was Duchamp’s suggestion but Bicycle Wheel is more deserving. It also works better for Gladwell who has more experience with wheels than domestic appliances.

Nor should we forget Duchamp’s interest in optical and mechanical art and that the bicycle wheel was his first attempt at optical art. Duchamp made Bicycle Wheel, in part, to be able to watch the pattern of shadows from a spinning spokes for more than a few seconds.

I’d like to think that Duchamp would have been very impressed with Gladwell’s work for its visual, optical and conceptual elements; he would have also probably felt a bit dizzy from the VR experience, I was.

Sean Gladwell’s Reversed Readymade 2016 is part of the Basil Sellers Art Prize exhibition at the Ian Potter Museum of Art at Melbourne University.

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Three Sided Football

“It appears that the first person to come up with the idea of three-sided football was Asger Jorn, who saw it as a means of conveying the notion of dialectics. We are still trying to discover if there any actual games organised by him. Before the LPA organised its first game at the Glasgow Anarchist Summer School in 1993, there is little evidence of any games being played.”

“There is, of course, the rumour that Luther Blissett organised an informal league…”

“Luther Blissett Three-Sided Football League”, Stewart Home, Mind Invaders (Serpent’s Tail, 1997, London, p.56)

I’m not accusing anyone of plagiarism any more than I am claiming that any of the information in the quotes is accurate. Even though Gabrielle de Vietri’s Three teams 2013 has no reference to earlier three-sided football games in her extensive artist’s statement but Neoists like Stewart Home were kicking lots of ideas around, hoping that some would catch one of them and run with it. A further complication to any accusations of plagiarism is that: “Anyone can be Luther Blissett simply by adopting the name.” (Home, Mind Invaders p. 44)

Gabrielle de Vietri Three teams 2013 is part of the Basil Seller Art Prize 2014 at the Ian Potter Museum of Art. There are many differences in football codes, media and the expression of the idea, but both have the intent to refute the dualism of the game of football and thereby, through Neoist reasoning, refute the dualism in life.

Gabrielle de Vietri realised the idea of three sided football recording the development of the game. “The game was played on the oval of the Taylors Lake Football & Netball Club in October 2013 between the Horsham RSL Diggers, Noradjuha-Quantong and Taylors Lake teams.” Her dual-channel HD video in 16:9 ratio with sound is 30:07 minutes long. It is interesting to watch because all of the participants are enthusiastic and thinking deeply about how a game based on Australian rules football would work with three teams. If you can’t imagine footballers taking conceptual art seriously you must watch this video. It is really the integration of art and life, or at least football, which to many Australians is the equivalent.

The historicism of the what was once considered underground art means that it is time to reconsider Neoism. Neoism, the art movement to end all art movements, was just another Neo-Dada movement. The word that reverberated around the art world since it was first spoken in Zurich in 1916 is still echoing the echoes.

Was Neoism the art movement that ended all art movements? Since Neoism there really hasn’t been another art movement, just geographic clusters of artists (unless we count Stuckism as an art movement). I remember reading somewhere that Stewart Homes was criticised for taking Neoism seriously; now the whole art world (except for Stuckists) takes Dada and some of its off spring seriously.

On the subject of open identities, another open identity like Luther Blissett, Monty Cantsin has been in the news attacking a Jeff Koons exhibition with a blood X and marker pen a signature. There is something wrong attacking the authenticity of Koons when you are also attacking the authenticity of identity by adopting the open identity of Monty Cantsin. Splashing blood around just further confuses any message and, or metaphor. (Cries of: “No, I’m Monty Cantsin” continue to be heard off stage.)


Basil Sellers Art Prize 2012

Melbourne artist, Jon Campbell won the $100,000 Basil Sellers Art Prize for his work Dream team – 22, a series of enamel paintings on board each with a footballer’s nickname: Dipper, Richo and Buddy Love. It is a footie fan’s dream team a nicknames.

Basil Sellers will be relieved not to be taking home a DVD this time for it is an acquisitive prize and the last two prizes have been won by video art.

There was a strong showing by aboriginal artists this year I especially enjoyed Richard Bell’s two paintings and Brook Andrew two works, especially his painting examining the indigenous origins of Australian Rules football.

I enjoyed seeing Simon Perry sculpture “Twickenham”. The small figures rotate as their roll along a track mounted on the gallery wall; the figures are based on Ian Bradshaw’s photo of the arrest of the first streaker.

Patrick Pound’s exhibition of found photographs of amateur sports-people, electronic game machines and souvenirs of professional sports stars that lost suggest the ordinary tragedies that are the corollary of sporting triumphs.

The Basil Sellers Art Prize has started me thinking about sport again – see my previous post about Art & Sport and the Basil Sellers Art Prize 2010.  (I don’t often think about sport; when the grand final was being played in Melbourne on Saturday I was watching “Writer’s Bench” at ACMI, thank you Sandra.)

In “Fair game: Art versus sport in ‘the lucky country’ (Art & Australia v.47 n.4) the article Christopher McAuliffe describes the oppositional positioning of art and sport noting the objections to sport from Robin Boyd (and David Williamson) and identifying the 1956 Olympics as the point where sport moved from a balanced part of Australian life to an obsession that indicative of conservatism and a reason for national pessimism. McAuliffe is optimistic that a balance can be restored but his evidence is only anecdotal.

On the other hand Barrie Houlihan (School of Social Sciences, Staffordshire University, “Sport, National Identity and Public Policy”, Nations and Nationalism v.3, Issue 1) concluded “that while sport possesses a powerful symbolism that can be exploited on occasion to great effect, the malleability of sports symbolism often undermines its capacity to exert a lasting effect on national identity.”

Art, what ever it is, is an elaborate cultural activity that exposes elements of a culture. Reflecting on art can illuminate these cultural elements, both the intentional and the unintentional. In this aspect I think that art is helpful to human happiness as it provides a time to think – as happiness requires, according to Epicurus: friends, freedom and time to think. Sport and games in general, although enjoyable but do not provide time to think, very few people reflect on their life at a football match or while playing on the X-box. This is not to argue that sport and games are not conducive to happiness, they are a great way to spend time with friends, only that sport and games alone will not provide a happy life. Sport and games are not the same as the free play that occurs in art.


Sporting Heroes

Sport Sculptures in Melbourne

The heritage-listed neon sign of the Italian cyclist Nino Borsari at the eponymous Borsari’s Corner, on the corner of Grattan and Lygon Streets, is not the first thing that comes to mind when I think about public art and sport in Melbourne but I had to mention it. The Basil Sellers Art has made me think and write more about art and sport. It is one of the intentions of the art prize not just to have an exhibition and a prize but to encourage a dialogue about art and sport. I’m not so sure that there isn’t this dialogue already. Leon Van Schaik discusses the influence of sport on design in Design City Melbourne, (Wiley-Academy, 2006, England).

Louis Laumen "Sir Donald Bradman" bronze

There are many sports themed sculptures located at Melbourne’s many sporting venues. These are, mostly, conservative, hero-worshipping sculptures in a traditional figurative form, in bronze, on a plinth. They link recent sports with the traditions of commemorating athletes with statues from Ancient Greece. These statutes allows Australian sport create the illusion of history and traditions even though all of these statutes are fairly recent. “The Pathfinder” by John Robinson, 1974 in the Queen Victoria Gardens is the earliest. The statue of the hammer thrower clearly looks back to classical Greek traditions.

There are 10 sculptures by Louis Laumen “sporting legends” at the MCG. The 10 sculptures, on their black marble plinths each with a biography and sponsors logos (really classy), were finally all installed for the 2006 Commonwealth Games redevelopment. At Gate 1 there are the cricketers Bill Ponsford and Dennis Lillee. At Gate 3 there are the women sprinters Betty Cuthbert and Shirley Strickland- Delahunty. The footballers Leigh Matthews and Ron Barassi are at Gate 4. There are more cricketers, Sir Donald Bradman and Keith Miller, at Gate 5 and more footballers, Haydn Bunton and Dick Reynolds at Gate 6. Also at the MCG there is a statue of cricket batsman “Victor Trumper”, 1999 and “The Birth of Australian Rules” 2001- both by Louis Laumen. Louis Laumen  dominates statues of sports stars in Melbourne and has also created the sculpture of John ‘Kanga’ Kennedy, 2008, at Hawthorn Football Club, Waverly Park.

There is a statue of Jack Dyer by Mitch Mitchell, 2003 at Richmond Headquarters on Punt Road. At Flemington Race Course there is a statute of Phar Lap by Peter Corlett, 1988, commissioned by the Victorian Racing Club to celebrate Australia’s bicentenary.

detail of Louis Laumen "Leigh Matthews", bronze

I don’t really care for any of these sculptures as art especially Louis Laumen’s conservative realism that reminds me of Soviet Realism. The conservative proclamation, glorifying the winners, made by these sculptures is shallow and archaic.  Less antiquated, but I don’t know if any more successful, are the non-figurative sports sculptures Simon Perry “Threaded Field”, Docklands Stadium Melbourne (2000) and Anthony Pryor, “The Legend”, 1991 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Simon Perry is best known in Melbourne for his sculpture “Public Purse” in the Burke St. mall. Anthony Pryor, “The Legend” 1991 is a dynamic steel sculpture the upper part suggesting the movement of the ball in play. I don’t think that the orange bollards were part of the original work but something had to be done for health and safety and vehicle access – the perils of not having a plinth.

Anthony Pryor, “The Legend”, 1991

Maybe Melbourne does need some better sports themed sculptures. Nick Farr-Jones will be on the judging panel for the third biennial Basil Sellers Art Prize – maybe a sculptor might win (instead of a video artist for the last two prizes). What do you think?


More winners

On Wednesday, the final night at the Basil Sellers Art Prize 2010 two associated awards were presented. Ponch Hawkes won the 2010 Basil Sellers National Sports Museum Creative Arts Fellowship. The fellowship is valued at $50,000 dollars. And Juan Ford for won the $5,000 Yarra Trams People’s Choice Award voted by the visitors to the exhibition.

Unlike The Gaurdian’s art critic, Adrian Searle, who recently wrote about this year’s Turner Prize, I do not prejudge the judges of art prizes. I do not think that it is the art critic’s role to do this (unless they are the appointed judge) any more than it is a crime reporter’s role to judge the case (if they did it would be contempt of court). It is the art critic’s role to explain, examine and comment on the art prizes and awards not to prejudge them.

The novelty of Juan Ford’s series of anamorphic images proved popular with the visitors to the exhibition. The visitors would have been familiar with the use of anamorphic images employed by advertisers in major sporting events – the logos that are designed to be viewed at particular angles. The visitors might have also been comforted by Ford’s familiar reference to sports art history with his anamorphic version of ancient Greek runners. Or, maybe they just enjoyed the theme of running.

The openings of Juan Ford’s exhibitions have always been packed with people – his art is popular. This is not just because of his fine figurative painting technique but because his engages the viewer with anamorphic images that emphasising the viewer’s relationship to the image.

Melbourne photographer Ponch Hawkes has worked with Circus Oz since its inception, the unresolved narratives in her photographs invite the viewer to speculate. So expect to see some of Hawkes dramatic photographs at the National Sports Museum at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. It is good to know that art at the MCG extends beyond the dozen bronze statues of sporting heroes by Louis Laumen.

My congratulations to Juan Ford and Ponch Hawkes.


Art & Sport

The bi-annual Basil Sellers Art Prize (see my entry about the Basil Seller Art Prize)has made me think and write more about art and sport. It is one of the intentions of the art prize not just to have an exhibition and a prize but to encourage a dialogue about art and sport.

This is not the first time that someone has tried to bridge the gap between the arts and sports. In the USA there is the National Art Museum of Sport at Indiana University. NAMOS was founded in 1959 in New York City by Germain G. Glidden, a portrait artist and champion squash player with a strong belief in sport and art as universal languages understood and appreciated by all people. NAMOS’s collection includes paintings by George Bellows, Henry Rousseau and Andrew Wyeth. Also in August of this year there was a football themed art shoe at the Bega Regional Gallery that Megan Bottari reviewed in her blog Glass Central Canberra.

There are some notable artists who had active sporting lives: the Fauvist Maurice de Vlaminck did cycle racing, British painter Ben Nicholson was a keen tennis and ping pong player and contemporary American video artist, Matthew Barney was on his high school wrestling and football teams. And two of the most famous artists of the 20th Century, Man Ray and Marcel Duchamp, met over a game of totem tennis, providing an initial bond at a time when Man Ray spoke only English and Marcel Duchamp only French.

Enough of this sports/art trivia; moving on to some serious thoughts…

When I was a post-graduate student studying the philosophy of art I was presented with a problem by a philosopher. Aliens arrive on Earth, just outside Canberra. They are friendly but we can hardly communicate with them. To improve communications the aliens want to have a cultural exchange tour. The cultural exchange is a group of aliens who jump up and down for a period of time. Who should fund this cultural exchange the department of sports or arts?

Art and sport, whatever they are, is a cultural expression of excess. There are other cultural expressions that deal with the excesses in a culture from jokes to religion they come in many forms. The excess that must be dealt with is everything from an excess of time, energy, food or any other resources. If this excess is not dealt with through some cultural expression then it becomes threatening pollution. The excess of sport and art is contained within an area, within refined and controlled movements and within the idea of art or sport.

Art and sport maybe substitutes for religion and culture amongst people who have been displaced by modernization. They provide a reason, a connection with something greater and give additional meaning to life.

Time for a match of three-sided football, a sport invented by Danish artist Asger Jorn.


And the winner is…

On a cold Thursday evening, on the 5 August 2010 sport and art luminaries walking on the green astroturf carpet that had been laid outside the Ian Potter Museum of Art. Amongst the crowd was legendary football coach, Ron Barassi who turned up to support a relative, one of the finalists, the artist, David Ray. Inside the Basil Sellers Art Prize 2010 was about to be announced (see my preview of the prize and exhibition).

And the winner is… The Gymnasium 2010 by Perth video artists, Pilar Mata Dupont and Tarryn Gill. The Gymnasium is a new work created for the Basil Sellers Art Prize.

Gymnasium, 2010, Courtesy the artists and Goddard de Fiddes Gallery, Perth

Pilar Mata Dupont and Tarryn Gill’s video is fun, like a 4-minute music video clip. You can watch it over and over again. The aesthetic image of the gymnasium from an era, prior to branding with corporate logos and exercise machines, has the ironic appeal of nostalgic propaganda. The video ends of the smiling, laughing faces of the athletes with the Australian flag waving in the background.

The Gymnasium was filmed in a boy’s school in Perth; the attention to detail in the video is amazing. Along with the location, the casting, hairdressing, soundtrack and the costumes perfectly fit the era and nationalistic propaganda style. The artists have beautifully captured choreographed movement.

The Gymnasium lives up to the objective of the Basil Sellers Art Prize as it challenges the perception of sport through the use of visual arts.  It examines the link between Australian national identity and sports. The national identity of the white Australia is based on a sporting body culture and this video gets to the heart of the aesthetics of athletics.

The video is ironically inspired by Lenni Riefenstahl’s classic film, Olympia, of the 1936 Berlin Olympics. The video images also have a direct relationship with one of Australian’s most famous photographers, Max Dupain. Isobel Crombie in Body Culture – Max Dupain, Photography and Autralian Culture 1919-1939, (Peleus Press, 2004) examines the fascist body culture that inspired Max Dupain’s photography. These images echo the aesthetic aspiration of ancient Greek athletes for control of their bodies, as examined by Michel Foucault in The Uses of Pleasure, the history of sexuality: v. 2 (1984). Foucault highlights the ethical relationship of this control to ancient Greeks. And the ethics of this body culture is displayed in The Gymnasium; the different athletic activities of the men and women demonstrate the use of sport to emphasise gender differences, as well as, control of sexuality.

Gymnasium 2010 Courtesy the artists and Goddard de Fiddes Gallery, Perth

Australia needs to acknowledge and better understand the history of its sporting culture in order to move beyond the nationalism and fascism. And Pilar Mata Dupont and Tarryn Gill’s The Gymnasium 2010 is part of this cultural re-evaluation.


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