A More Perfect World

Daniel Lara’s An Imperfect Universe is a beautiful project. We pass by pick-up games and local league matches every day; small communities of futbolistas are a part of our lives and our sense of home. If you’ve observed these games or played in them, you know that the balls are often worn. They are worn because they are in constant use and carry the traces of their travel across packed dirt and cement. Lara exchanged old balls for new ones; he carefully dissassembled and then patched together the worn balls to make sculptures. Each is an appreciation of the local; lo-fi love for the game.

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Yolanda de Sousa’s Mundial Scrapbook

 

Yolanda de Sousa has been keeping a watercolor diary of this year’s World Cup. She has a painter’s eye for the ‘man of the match.’  As it happens, the Goan artist is an important figure in football history. In the late 1970s and 80s, she enjoyed a storied career playing women’s football in India. She was a real pathfinder. In 1980, she was voted player of the decade by India’s Women’s Football Federation. Sport-related work is not the mainstay of her practice, but every now and again she documents a match (football or cricket) with these player-portraits. (I wrote about her 2002 series a few years back.)

I’ve reproduced the bulk of a 2009 Times of India’s profile of the artist-footballer below. The brief article contains lots of information about her career as a player.

“It’s time for all of us to face the truth,” she says, sifting through memories when she was queen of the 100m field and the continent, her kingdom.

At a time when FIFA has struck off the Indian women’s football team from its world rankings for being out of sight or rather action for more than 18 months, Yolanda reminds us of the late seventies and early eighties when women’s football bettered the best in the continent and matched the rest of the world.

“Taiwan had an exceptionally strong team and was number one in Asia, but we always gave them plenty of problems. We were so strong in our belief and quality that we took the field knowing we could get the result we desired against most of the teams in the world,” says Yolanda, voted the player of the decade in 1980 by the Women’s’ Football Federation of India.

Yolanda’s story deserves to be told more so because it has the ability to instill the belief that women’s football still has the ability to enchant, entertain and inspire a generation.

It may not be the case elsewhere, but at least in this part of the world, many equate football with masculinity. But, as Yolanda’s story would demonstrate, that was never the case when she got enveloped by the magic of the game at a very young age.

“I would play along with my brother (Francisco) and his friends, but most of the times I was shunted to the goal. Whenever I got a chance to play up front, I would really put my best foot forward,” remembers Yolanda, who grew up to become one of Goa’s exemplary, if not, finest footballer.

Yolanda scored a goal in the first ever recorded women’s football match, playing against a men’s team appropriately called Adam’s in 1973, but it was not until 1976 when Goa took part in their first Nationals at Sultanpur and Yolanda scored a bag full of goals – 15 in all including two hat-tricks – and announced her arrival on the big scene.

“We lost in the final against Bengal by the narrowest of margins,” remembers Yolanda, dubbed the Madonna of Goan football.

The 1976 Nationals at Sultanpur was the first Goa ever participated in, and for the first time got to know what other players thought about Goa and Goans. “Since the facilities were not good enough, we wanted separate accommodations. This led to rumours that we sought a hotel elsewhere because the players wanted to enjoy their drinks! They believed we played well because we were drinking,” laughs the Calangute-based artiste.

Goa hosted the 3rd edition of the National football championship in 1977 and, true to expectations, won the tournament in style, defeating twice-champions Bengal 3-0 in front a lustily cheering capacity-crowd at the Bandodkar stadium at Campal.

Goa dominated the championship from start to finish, scoring an amazing 49 goals that included roaring wins over Madhya Pradesh (25-0), Punjab (10-0), Gujarat (5-0), Manipur (6-0) and, finally, Bengal (3-0).

Goa’s deadly strike pair of Succorinha Pereira (19 goals) and Yolanda (18 goals) scored 37 of the 49 goals, but often it was such a bore to score goals against the hapless opposition that even the strikers played the ball amongst themselves instead of taking aim at the goal!

“We were too strong for the other teams during Nationals. We used to score early in all the games since most of the goalkeepers remained clueless,” says the stylish striker.

Yolanda’s international debut came in 1976 when she, along with the likes of Rekha Karapurkar, Succorinha Pereira and Helen Fernandes, found a place in the Indian team against the visiting Swedish club BET.

She set all the venues on fire, ensuring seven victories and in the process becoming the first woman to score a hat-trick for India.

Since that memorable debut, Yolanda remained a permanent member of the Indian team until she was forced into premature retirement after the World Cup of 1981.

“Injury cut short my career. I was too scared to undergo an operation to correct the damage and instead opted to call it a day,” says Yolanda, who gave up hockey and badminton which she excelled at the highest level to nurse her football dream.

The artist with a photo from her playing days.

French Do-Over

Some more football art.

Mexico 17 – Brazil 0

Miguel Calderón, Mexico vs Brazil (2004).

Miguel Calderón, Mexico vs Brazil (2004).

Miguel Calderón watched hours and hours of football matches; he pulled footage of Mexico and Brazil matches to compile an imaginary world in which Mexico wins 17-0. Calderón’s 90-minute video was originally installed on a television in a sports bar in Brazil. Hopefully, someone has thought to install this work in a bar or two – a little World Cup static.

Pregnant with Ball

 

Yrsa Roca Fannberg, Resurrection (watercolour on paper, 2009)

Joel Campbell’s goal celebration belongs to a genre – Yrsa Roca Fannberg is the only artist I know to have honored that genre in paint.

 

Cris Bierrenbach: The Uniform Shot

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The artist Cris Bierrenbach dressed in diverse uniforms, photographed herself, and then fired shots at the self-portraits, defacing each. “Fired” (2013) uses the different meanings of that word to provide a disturbing comment on labor, gender and precarity. Wedged into this project is a photograph of the artist in the uniform of Brazil’s national team. A given: women footballers in Brazil are vulnerable in the same way that ordinary women are vulnerable. That is not something you would assume if a male artist made this gesture to the national team. This work has me thinking about the relationship between gender and violence in experiences of/stories about the men’s game, and the violence that women encounter in the world as the background (the given) against which they play.  The artist is from São Paulo.

Jaskirt Dhaliwal’s Anti-Spectacular Portraits

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Jaskirt Dhaliwal’s photographs are very similar to those I’ve posted earlier by Andrew Esiebo and by Moira Lovell. In researching contemporary art about this sport, I’ve found huge differences between work engaging the men’s game and the women’s. Work engaging the men’s game tends to address men’s football as spectacle – thus Douglas Gordon and Philippe Parreno’s cinematic project Zidane: a 21st Century Portrait, Jürgen Teller’s film of himself watching Germany lose to Brazil (Germany 0: Brazil 2), Harun Faroki’s Deep Play. One can see Lyle Ashton Harris’s project as a meditation on the politics of the football spectacle (e.g. Blow Up, see earlier post). The televisual spectacle, the crowds, the iconic figure at the center of it all – this is the subject of art about the men’s game. Women footballers are overwhelmingly isolated by the artist’s camera – rarely pictured as a team – and they are frequently photographed in street clothes, off the pitch, in ordinary and fairly anonymous settings. As Dhaliwal writes on her website, “The idea that some of the nation’s best female footballers could pass you on the street and you would not know them is a telling fact in a world where male footballers are ranked as celebrities.” Artists make this statement over and over again about women footballers. Nobody knows who they are. The woman sitting next to you on the train could be an international player, and you’d never know it. You’d never know it because you have to work hard to learn who these women are – trekking out to minor pitches in the outskirts of the metropolis to sit with a few hundred folks watching an untelevised match played between largely amateur athletes. That’s where you’ll find the women Dhaliwal photographed; their images are not splashed across the tabloids, broadcast on your televisions, or peopling advertisements for everything under the sun.

Mamela Nyamza’s Interventionist Performances

Mamela Nyamza’s Shift thinks with, moves with the experiences of black women athletes in the public sphere, especially those athletes “accused” of having masculine appearance and comportment  – e.g. Caster Semenya, Eudy Simelane (the South African national team player raped and murdered in 2008), the Williams Sisters.

For more on Shift, see this review by Robyn Sassen.

In 2012, Nyamza (who is based in South Africa) and the multi-disciplinary writer/actor/performer Mojisola Adebayo (based in Lonson) collaborated on “I Stand Corrected” – check out this interview about the show.

scene of a crime (football stadium)

Image

This weekend The Independent published a story about black lesbians in South Africa who have been raped, gang raped, murdered by men who claim this violence as a means for making women “straight.” Sexual violence is often presented as some kind of “punishment.” In these cases, the “punishment” takes the form and intensity of a lynching. Football often appears in these news stories, as gender non-normative women are found on the pitch, coming home from training, or in the stands – and assaulted. (See, for example, this 2009 Guardian story.) The above image is a photograph of the football stadium in Gauteng where Mvulina Fana was “left for dead” by her attackers. It is part of the artist Claire Carter’s series documenting the community targeted in these assaults. (The artist Zanele Muholi has produced a large and very moving body of work on this subject; there is, South Africa, an community of artists responding to this terrible crisis.)

The opening of “Crisis in South Africa”:

Mvuleni Fana was walking down a quiet alleyway in Springs – 30 miles east of Johannesburg – on her way home from football practice one evening when four men surrounded her and dragged her back to the football stadium. She recognised her attackers. One by one, the men raped her, beating her unconscious and leaving her for dead.

The next morning, Mvuleni came round, bleeding, battered, in shock, and taunted by one overriding memory – the last thing they said to her before she passed out: “After everything we’re going to do to you, you’re going to be a real woman, and you’re never going to act like this again”. (Patrick Strudwick, “Crisis in South Africa“)

To learn more, see, for example, Inkanyiso.org, a blog established by Zanele Muholi as a platform for people affected by this violence.

The Fist

Wu Tsang, The Fist Is Stil Up, 2010, Neon, acrylic on wood panel, 40 x 70 x 10 inches

Wu Tsang, The Fist Is Still Up, 2010, Neon, acrylic on wood panel, 40 x 70 x 10 inches

 

Is it? Is the fist still up? I love this work – which I’m taking out of context here. The raised fist – what does it signify outside the context of the ’68 Olympics? That question has had me looking for raised fists in contemporary art – or, as is the case here – invocations of the fist.

 

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