Tag Archives: Sport

There is money in fandom

We all know there’s lots of money in fandom: all those tickets, scarves, t-shirts, badges, and hospital bills for cracked skulls, squashed faces, and broken teeth. When I think of fans, and especially fans of popular games, I imagine a legion of happy bartenders, dentists, and Chinese exporters of fake club paraphernalia.

Ever since men first united for a mammoth hunt, they’ve been happy to splash on tools and tokens that would help them reach their cause, even if it was another evolutionary dead-end.

Fans, and especially male fans, are a treasure trove for any trade, because men get irrational when it comes to being a club member, especially when this club encourages mad behaviours, idiotic hats, and girls’ getting topless.

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Men frown at their wives when they want to change curtains bought ten years ago (“nothing’s wrong with the old ones!”), but are happy to buy club shirts that change design each season to make fans keep buying them, and then pay for tickets to stand-up shows to be informed by comedians of how stupid they all are.

Fandoms keep everyone happy. Except artists. 

Artists celebrate sports and sportsmen, but ignore fans and their fandoms.

My dear fellows, why do you turn your back on an opportunity that’s more generous than Donald Trump in his promises?

The global art market features precious few artworks that celebrate fans (if you take wedding cake toppers off the list).

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Throughout art history fans only feature in supporting roles.

Alexandre Falguiere Lutteurs Борцы 1875

Alexandre Falguiere Lutteurs, Wrestlers, 1875

George Bellows Stag at Sharkey's (1909), oil on canvas

George Bellows Stag at Sharkey’s (1909), oil on canvas

And only occasionally, in preparatory drawings or sketches, fans take centre stage:

George Bellows, Preliminaries of the Big Bout (1916), lithograph

George Bellows, Preliminaries of the Big Bout (1916), lithograph

In the examples above, artists used the audience as a backdrop to enhance contrast in their work. The strained body of the fighter becomes all the more strained when contrasted with a relaxed pose of a spectator. The honestly of the fight becomes accentuated with a fat cat watching it with a betting interest in his eyes. Still, it’s never about fans themselves!

In my search of artworks dedicated to sport fans, I couldn’t walk past Toronto.

There, Michael Snow, a renowned polymath artist, mounted sculpted fans high up on the wall of a stadium. This is a rare case when sculptural caricature is paid for by the caricatured (indirectly via taxes, of course).

6732492143_b84b2b6617 The Audience (1)

I find it strange. Is there nothing to glorify about fans?

Fandom can be a good thing, you know. There are decent values in there, hidden beneath all the violence and stupid acts we get in the news.

First, fandom is about equality. It is about people being equal in the ecstasy of victory, in the drunken gloom of defeat, or in their meaningless fist-fights with men from other fandoms. Second, fandom is about togetherness, being a part of the pack. Give me a third or even fourth if you are a fan of anything, but even equality and togetherness alone are enough to cheer up the fandom concept.

Where is art that would celebrate this?

So far, I could find only a single artwork that would not be a mockery or social critique of fans. It is a work by a Latvian sculptor, Olita Abolinya.

Olita Abolinya, 1971 Latvia Болельшики.preview

Olita Abolinya, Fans, 1971

I assume this is a group of Soviet soccer fans. Soccer championships in the USSR were taking place in winter because sports were meant to build character rather than entertain.

It’s a good piece. It shows fans in cold weather but the pink clay somehow radiates warmth that the group generates by being connected to each other.

And this is it.

Just. One. Piece.

So, if you are an artist and want to sell to the profitable fan community or get over a creative block, look into the fandom good sides.

Show fans resolved to support their team when it lost.

Show a family, in which husband and wife support opposing teams, and do not fight over which club their kids will support when they grow up.

Show fans united not through a goal or win, but through deep understanding of tactics and strategy in football, soccer, hockey, golf, or sack jumping.

It’s all out there, waiting for your talent to crack it.

PS If you are not an artist, but have artist-friends, forward it to them. Make them rich!

Mud-fighting shall be made Olympic Sport

All World Records Shall Be Ours! Soviet poster of 1948

All World Records Shall Be Ours! Soviet poster of 1948

In totalitarian-minded societies athletes, willing to sacrifice their health for the prestige of their country, are seen as heroes. Like soldiers, dying to expand the empire or to protect its size, sportsmen serve as living proof that the Supreme Ruler or Ideology of the Empire is doing the right thing.

The Ruler’s policies make his country stronger than its adversaries; his care fosters men and women who are mightier, faster, and jump higher than people from enemy states.

When I was a kid, each sports event was a war waged by the soldiers of athletes. Commies vs. Imperialists. I guess it was the same on the other side of the great divide. Did the West feel Russkies were enemies during Olympic games?

I was so relieved when I thought it was over (not least because China made it meaningless).

I was wrong.

It is no longer Socialism vs. Capitalism, though.

It is the Eastern Capitalism vs. Western Capitalism now. How ironic.  

Once again, Russian television foams with hysterical commentary about the achievements of Russian sportsmen and failures of Team US or Team GB. I want to watch the Olympics, but I can’t, unless my TV is on mute. I want to watch sportsmen from different countries doing mogul skiing. not listen to a commentator chupa-chupsing the assumed grief of a skier from the US who didn’t make it to the top three in the finals.

From what I hear about television in the US, it is not that much different. It keeps savouring the twitterised failures of Sochi: rusty water or two lavatory bowls installed instead of a lavatory bowl and a bidet, and the ring that failed to open, of course. The news of an athlete who got stuck in the elevator make front pages. It must be pretty sour from the US end too, I guess. Again, it is all hearsay, so correct me if I am wrong.

If there’s a sport these Games are missing, it is Mud-Fighting.

I understand why it is happening. Putin wants to project the image of Russia that – in the opinion of most foreigners and a sizeable share of Russians – is not the real Russia, but his vision of the Great Russian Empire. A vision that no one outside of Russia wants to see re-emerging from the heap of the USSR debris. These games are seen by many as an illusionary screen, a mask, constructed and manipulated to hide a great ugliness. Like the one used by Tom Cruise in the Mission Impossible IV to sneak up to a security guard inside the Kremlin.

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Who wouldn’t love to poke the illusion and see it collapsing?

A lot of it is true. Sending an unlit torch to a space station does look a perfect illustration to “empty ambition”. Having a former Olympic champion who lately became infamous for twittering a racist Obama photo and voting for the law that banned adoption of Russian children by Americans (and whose children and grandchildren, accidentally, happen to live in the good ole’ U.S.A) carry the torch to its final ceremonial destination was a perfect example of bureaucratic callousness.

So, I understand it.

It doesn’t mean I appreciate it.

A lot of money’s been spent on making a grand sports event when few – if any – other countries could afford spending the equivalent amount of money. Even if a half of it was stolen, the facilities are there. Athletes from across the globe are there.

And still this Cold War rhetoric threatens besmirch the two weeks when Mankind should be rejoicing through peaceful competitions, the joy of being human, and promoting respect towards each and every nation and race populating this planet. Even those nations that cut heads off gay men. Even those nations that believe prostitution is OK. Even those nations that believe setting a few countries on fire by the torch of democracy is a noble deed. Even those nations that can’t do anything without pocketing a half of everything to fuel their personal flame for greed.

I know the mud-fighting won’t stop, but I hope it just may subside.

That was politics, but this is an art blog. Artistically, I am disappointed that Sochi is an imported product. 

Ninety nine percent of everything in Sochi was planned, done, made, produced by European or US designers. From slopes to the design of uniforms to the opening ceremony. It was financed by Russians, no doubt about that, but I am saddened by the lack of local talent, or rather the lack of trust in local talent.

Previously, when the Soviet Union was young and was organising its own Olympic games, called Spartakiada, Russian artists were at the forefront of things.

It was 1928.

Varvara Stepanova, Rodchenko’s wife, produced designs for sports uniforms:

Varvara Stepanova. Uniform design, 1928

Varvara Stepanova. Uniform design, 1928

A Moscow gallery is exhibiting uniforms that they made according to some of those designs:

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It was a fashion bomb in 1928.

Posters, promoting the games were the topmost achievement in collage (author: Gustav Klutsis, Postcards for the All Union Spartakiada Sporting Event, 1928)

A weaving mill near Moscow was producing sports-themed fabrics – and the design, I have to say was revolutionary:

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And of course, like as now, a lot of what was done for the games back then was a smoke screen. With the only exception: people genuinely believed in what the screen was showing, not in what it was hiding.

It is different this time: with all the grandeur of the Sochi games, few people believe in what is painted on the facade of Russia.

It is all right.

Can we have some Olympic fun now?

To sample this blog, click on About at the top. It has links to some of my best or typical posts. There’s an Art & Fun shelf if you feel like in need of a laugh.

PS You may want to check Sochi’s unofficial sexist (but sexy) calendar that continues the sports&arts series.