Cafe Calcio On TwoHundredpercent: Football Art Masterclass; Post-Modernism

By on Apr 8, 2011 in Latest, Opinion | 1 comment

As ever, Cafe Calcio is back on London’s Resonance FM tonight, and this evening we have a double dose of art, courtesy of their very own Chris Roberts.  The show is on at 9.00 this evening and is repeated at 11.00 tomorrow morning, with a podcast version available during the week. You can listen to it by clicking here.

On Post-Modernism

Post-modernism is, perhaps, more a philosophy than an art movement but one which has undoubtedly had a profound influence on art in the late 20th century though the term originated in the 19th. When used pejoratively, post-modernism describes tendencies perceived as relativist, counter-enlightenment or anti-modern, particularly in relation to critiques of rationalism, universalism or science.

Post-modernism is a critique of the “modernist” scientific mentality of objectivity and progress associated with the Enlightenment so where modernism was primarily concerned with principles such as identity, unity, authority, and certainty, postmodernism is often associated with difference, plurality, textuality, and skepticism. There is an inherent suspicion towards global cultural narrative and a supposition that many, if not all, apparent realities are only social constructs, as they are subject to change inherent to time and place. It emphasizes the role of language, power relations, and motivations; in particular it attacks the use of sharp classifications such as male versus female, straight versus gay, white versus black, or in football’s case win versus loss.

It has surprising longevity for a term heavily used throughout the twentieth century and forms part of the philosophical underpinning of situationism and much of the successful conceptual art of the last thirty years including the young British artists. The galaticos of the movement are Jacques Derrida (1930–2004), Michel Foucault (1926–1984) and Jean Baudrillard (1929–2007) who all, oddly enough sound like they might be somebody handy for Anderlecht who Spurs are interested in. Like modern football the buzzwords of post modernity litter the language occasionally running together in beautiful abstractions like Gerald Sinstadt  on methamphetamine, ‘intertextual’, ‘metaphysics of presence’, ‘predicament’ of reflexivity, ‘de-centring’ of the subject, an ‘incredulity towards metanarratives’, the ‘implosion of meaning’, deconstruction, ‘placelessness’ or ‘critical regionalism’.

There are many beautiful examples of relativism in the managerial team talk with the duality of life nicely summed up by Francisco Maturana who said after a sound beating that ‘every defeat is a victory in itself’, a comment supported by John Toshack who opined that ‘winning all the time is not necessarily good for the team.’ Graham Taylor moved up to the position of a truly omnipotent being when he declared ‘it’s the only way we can lose, irrespective of the result.’ Giving clear directions is extremely important for the momentum of a club because as Peter Reid said ‘in football, if you stand still you go backwards,’ which may not be all bad to Dave Sexton who stated that ‘the way forwards is backwards.’

And it’s here we arrive at the perfect post-modern side, made all the more perfect because they posses all the apparent attributes of the opposite. A solid tradition, historical narrative, supposed belief systems and local legends as well as a sense of rootedness in a specific community. In this sense they appear modernist and solid yet whilst Liverpool fans do not discuss the intertexuality of Carra La’s passing they do have the ability to appear to be one reality whilst being patently living another. They have embraced the relativist position beautifully by clinging onto to their image (which of itself is very endearing to market minded venture capitalists) whilst accepting (indeed demanding) the money that goes with being the international commodity brand they quite clearly are.

On The Michael Jackson Statue

When the idea of the Football Art Masterclass (linking art theory to football) was first mooted there was much ribaldry, not least from my co-presenters. Since then though with the uncovering of Futurist inspired football statues, Situationist banners and hitherto unthought-of of links between soccer and sculpture it has, as they say, all gone quiet over there. It therefore came as no shock in these post modern times that a statue to the king of pop should appear outside a Premier League ground. The only surprising element being that, given Jackson’s alleged fondness for blowing bubbles, it was at Craven Cottage not the Boleyn Ground.

The statue itself is (at seven and a half feet) a larger than life size portrayal of action Jackson in a soft grey ensemble complete with trademark glove. Set upon a six foot plinth the pose is in keeping with the traditional realist football statue. In fact dress him differently and lose the microphone and he his clearly attempting the classic pose from the Parker Games’ Striker – five a side football with a kick- packaging. Also in keeping is the portrayal of the hero at his prime rather than in later years.

There, though, the similarities with the Stakhanovite-inspired Socialist Realist statues end, perhaps this is just as well as the presence of a miner’s helmet would only serve to confuse the issue. The statue is more in the kind of hyperrealism school of Jeff Koons who scales up of smaller objects and / or use of lurid colour is apparent in his own Jackson figurine (figure two below). There are however echoes of symbolism, a movement that directly inspired the composer Debussy and in this musical/sculpture crossover the Jackson statue may have found its true niche.

The worrying question for football fans is whether this is the start of a trend of improbable pop culture icons outside or just the whim of an eccentric rich man. Given where ownership of football clubs are heading it could be an uncomfortable mixture of the two. In the meantime though it would be fair to say don’t blame it on Da Vinci, don’t blame it on de Kooning, blame it on Debussy.

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    1 Comment

  1. One is tempted to consider modern footballers in a meta-modenist light – consider the naivety of Wayne Rooney’s conduct against the knowingness of his footballing skill. The paradoxical juxtaposition of the crude ‘Fucking what?’ against the sublimity of the overhead kick into the net.

    The sense of bewilderment that young man lives in must be EXACTLY what Vermeulen is getting at.

    SJ Maskell

    April 8, 2011

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