27 July - 14 September 2012
part of Pursuit of Perfection: The Politics of Sport
South London Gallery, London
One might fairly say: more sport? Isn't the Olympics enough? But from the starting gun, this nine-artist group show is a wry, multi-faceted and far from straightforwardly synergistic affair.
The main space is filled by Aleksandra Mir's ambivalent epic Triumph (2009), 2,569 trophies sourced from Sicily over the course of a year: tarnished and shiny cups, dismayingly similar, piled on plinths and washed up in golden tides in the palatial gallery's corners. On the one hand it celebrates collective achievement, but the trophies were apparently eagerly sold to Mir by their owners, being reminders of long-gone, rather than current glories.
In the upstairs space it's all football, the highlight being Paul Pfeiffer's slo-mo video that digitally erases details, such as rough tacklers and shirt markings, so that lone footballers dive, fall and perform agonies like players in an existential tragicomedy.
Down the road at Southwark Old Town Hall, the exhibition's offsite venue, there is Janice Kerbel's smoothly surreal Ballgame (Pregame 2009), in which an actor silkily recites an announcer's pre-baseball game patter. Alongside, John Gerrard offers a digital simulation of a US military exercise on the baked plains of Djibouti, with soldiers running in endless figure-of-eights (or an infinity symbol) through coloured smoke bombs. Hardly a rah-rah vision of athletics, it's nevertheless trumped by Michel Auder's horny scratch video of the 1984 Olympics coverage: filming his TV screen with a video camera, the Frenchman offers a 22-minute, pixelated and saturated collage of toned thighs and pert Olympian arses.