Stadium X

4 Dec 2009

Last week I had the opportunity to attend a lecture by Polish curator, Joanna Warsza. In 2007, Joanna set up The Laura Palmer Foundation (borrowing its name from David Lynch’s film Twin Peaks) which is an independent company that produces conceptual exhibitions, participation events, staged situations and performances. The Laura Palmer Foundation functions on the verge of fiction and reality and “treats curating as an art form”.

Joanna spoke about some of her recent projects, and one that I know I won’t forget for a long time was called “Boniek!” We were shown a short film clip, and I’m telling you, it was absolutely hilarious! I need to set the scene before you watch the film. The Laura Palmer Foundation was working with a derelict ex-communist stadium in Warsaw, called the 10th Anniversary Stadium. It was built after the Second World War, but was totally dysfunctional for various logistical reasons, and had been disused since the 1980s. Joanna worked with Swiss performance artist Massimo Furlan, and he came up with an incredible idea for a performance art project.

On his own, Furlan re-enacted one of the most spectacular games in the history of Polish football: the Poland-Belgium 3-0 match at the 1982 World Cup in Spain. He reproduced the choreography of the match’s hero Zbigniew Boniek, who scored all three goals. The match was reported live by Poland’s leading sports commentator Tomasz Zimoch and broadcast on the radio. Some 700 people attended this historical “match”. In keeping with the nature of participatory art, the crowd was asked to join in with the action and support the Polish team. The original football coaches who were present at the match in Spain in 1982 even attended.

Here’s the video of the re-enactment. The commentary is in Polish with no subtitles, but I saw a subtitled version at the lecture and he’s just saying all the standard stuff. You can get a feeling for it just from the tone of his voice.

The reason I like this so much is because it’s so simple and witty. It’s just hilarious to see Furlan running around the pitch kicking an invisible ball with the commentator getting more and more excited. The seemingly standard sports commentary that we hear creates some sense of reality, but there are many visual oddities such as the disparity between the small number of supporters and the enormous stadium, and the fact that there’s only one player. The line between reality and fiction is blurred. For a moment we might see Furlan as the footballer Boniek, and then we see him as a 40-year-old man prancing around an empty pitch. In the lecture, Joanna explained that when this was filmed the spectators were the “audience”, but in fact the spectators are the “performers”, and we are now the audience watching the film. The fact that the spectators got involved with the match “distorted the distinction between artist and audience, creating a non-hierarchical space of social exchange”.

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