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The Nation’s Finest


Putting the Balls Away (Tara Mateik, 2008). Image courtesy of the artist

The Nation’s Finest

Thu, Mar 22, 2018 7 PM

This program of short experimental films deconstructs the athlete’s body—how it’s used for national, political, and social agendas, and how it’s viewed and recrafted by artists (who are themselves sometimes athletic!). You’ll see work by Haig Aivazian, I AM A BOYS CHOIR, Tara Mateik, Nam June Paik, Keith Piper, and Lillian Schwartz (see descriptions below). The evening is introduced by Astria Suparak and Brett Kashmere, the program’s curators and editors of INCITE: Sports. (71 mins.; 16mm, video, and GIF)

Officially commissioned for the Olympic Winter Games, Nam June Paik’s Lake Placid ’80 (1980), is an unruly, ecstatic video that is slyly subversive. Keith Piper’s The Nation’s Finest (1990), however, mimics the look and tone of state propaganda with a silky, biting critique of the way predominantly white countries use black bodies in the service of national pride while simultaneously disenfranchising their black residents. How Great You Are O Son of the Desert! (2013), by Haig Aivazian, delves further into the tragic and deadly consequences of white supremacy with examples that range from the 2006 World Cup Final to the fields of a Parisian suburb.

In Putting the Balls Away (2008), a reenactment of the historic 1973 “Battle of the Sexes,” artist Tara Mateik plays both “chauvinist pig” Bobby Riggs and equal pay advocate Billie Jean King while assailed by the hypergendered ads of that era. With demonstrating the imaginary body (2015), I AM A BOYS CHOIR highlights the insidious sexism of sports commentating, particularly with the objectification of female figure skaters, with panache and sarcasm. Lillian Schwartz’s computer-graphic film Olympiad (1971) presents a nearly gender-neutralized (then, meaning on the masculine end) symbol of an athlete to inspire and uplift. The program begins and ends with recent GIFs of confounding skill and precision from a university cheerleader and a 19-year-old monk in a deep Zen meditative state.

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