12 November 2014, Ian Potter Gallery, Carlton, Melbourne, Australia
The path to enlightenment: is it art of sport? Alicia Sometimes argued for the art side.
If at first you don’t succeed, maybe it’s because you suck.
This was on the walls of a literary magazine’s offices a while ago. Literature knows how to talk tough. Inspire. Rodin demanded of art, ‘The main thing is to be moved, to love, to hope, to tremble, to live.’ Sport demands us only to turn up. With beer.
Is sport more enlightened because it’s popular? As Victor Hugo said, ‘Popularity? It's glory's small change.’
The Bachelor Australia is popular, where one man with seemingly airbrushed nipples hands out roses in a ceremony in order to win a bride. Even Mark Latham said he was obsessed with this show and wrote a column about the ‘chickie babes’ he thought should win. Popular?
People lined up for blocks to see Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones. Buzzfeed lists are popular: 8 People Sneezing That Will Restore Your Faith in Sneezing. Type into Google the words, ‘Worst thing…’ and the most popular search is ‘Worst Thing to Say After Sex’. (Now, we both have it was the first answer I clicked on).
Popularity breeds CONTENT. Too much of it.
Does sport have more rousing aphorisms? Tom Hafeyesque, Ron Barassi-isms, Al Pacino on Any Given Sunday catchphrases? Things like footy coach John Kennedy saying, ‘Injuries above the neck don't count?’ Or Aussie shooter Russell Mark: ‘A silver medal gets you as many free beers as a gold medal does.’ Or runner Craig Mottram’s, ‘Big balls count.’
No. And is this elevated speech? Don’t get me wrong, these are great, admirable men. The high flyers. But compare it to this:
The ghost of electricity howls in the bones of her face. Dylan. So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past. F Scott Fitzgerald. The first time I laid eyes on Terry Lennox he was drunk in a Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith outside the terrace of the Dancers. Raymond Chandler. I used to think marriage was a plate-glass window just begging for a brick. Jeanette Winterson. My heart is decked out in bright pink tracksuit pants. Dorothy Porter. Words. Singing. Life changing.
Not, ‘They have to get on the same page.’ ‘It's a shame somebody has to lose this game.’ ‘Football is the winner today.’
Sports enlightened? Let’s think about the playing field.
Look for a rousing sports speech online or in archives or in the media and it is often not written by a woman or for a woman and it’s not that women aren’t saying or writing or publishing the heady, beautiful, insightful words demanded of sport (such as the magnificent Angela Pippos here) and it’s not that they aren’t playing all the sport just as well. It’s still quite the boy’s club. ‘That's football guys. That's all it is. Now, whattaya gonna do?’ Sport is not as enlightened. Sport is still wearing jockstrap with a box.
In art we celebrate JK Rowling, the Jane Austens, The Cate Kennedys, the Angela Savages. We want to be the Tai Snaiths, the Mirka Moras, the Kathleen Patyarres. Artists are the very essence of transcendence.
Pablo Picasso said, ‘Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.’ Sylvester Stallone said ‘Playing polo is like trying to play golf during an earthquake.’
And it’s not that I think just like Mark Twain that ‘Golf is a good walk spoiled.’ I love sport, I care about sport, I like to thrash it out in sport - but it doesn’t shape a nation. Sure it shapes the headlines of the Herald Sun and we can boast that we are a city of people who would line up to see anything battle it out in a paddock, twice. But we are a proud nation of music lovers, art connoisseurs, passionate poetry purists, canny comedian cravers, alliteration enthusiasts.
Comedian Demetri Martin did say, ‘Glitter is the herpes of craft supplies’ and I could say ‘Sport is the buckle on a bra strap. Sure, we need it and we use it, but breasts are the main attraction.’ And art is, my friends, wonderful life affirming breasts.
Tony Wilson's argument for the sport side of the debate is here. Angela Pippos's speech for sport is here.