Athletes like divinities
In Greek and Roman times, as in the Italian Renaissance, athletes were celebrated by artists as veritable divinities. Alas, this idea was resurrected during the Nazi period, but that’s no reason to abandon the monopoly of the celebration of their admirable nature to promoters of the Aryan race.
Dexterity and Intelligence
Strength, dexterity, intelligence in the game and sublime musculature… A new kind of “monument” to this alliance of an exceptional mindset and a perfect body was conceived in 2005. That year saw the creation of a complete work of art honouring one of these stadium gods: the footballer Zinédine Zidane. It’s on display until 7 January at the Philarmonie de Paris and it is a masterpiece. Here we find ourselves at a very rare and therefore precious meeting point between popular and avant-garde culture.
On 23 April 2005 two visual artists, the British Douglas Gordon (born in 1966) (see here and here interviews of Douglas Gordon) and the French Philippe Parreno (born in 1964) (See here an other interview of Philippe Parreno), joined forces to make a film about the Marseille athlete filmed in real time in Madrid during a match between two Spanish teams, Real Madrid, Zidane’s team at the time, and Villareal. The idea involved placing no less than 17 cameras around the stadium. They followed the player, not the ball. At the time this produced a film that premiered at the Cannes film festival in 2006 and was then shown in cinemas.
17 giant screens
But at the Philarmonie there is a new version of this work on show: an immersive installation. Philippe Parreno has created a system of 17 giant screens that show in detail, or even dissect, all the attitudes of dear Zizou. There’s also the roar of the crowd, the supercharged atmosphere in the Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, and a soundtrack by the rock band Mogwai, which disperses cleverly throughout the space thanks to the techniques of sound designer Nicolas Becker.
Needless to say the two artists are both football fans and as children, one in Glasgow, the other in the banlieue of Grenoble, they dreamed of the champions of the discipline. “His elegance on the pitch has always really touched me. His vision and his way of moving are unique,” comments Philippe Parreno on Zinédine, adding: “He was a player of genius. At the Philarmonie he has a kaleidoscopic presence that really expresses his intensity.”
Romantic contemporary sculpture
Visitors who arrive when the match is over can observe the final salute: the seventeen screens switch off one by one. A romantic gesture for an artwork that can be seen as a sculpture for the 21st century.
Until 7 January, Zidane un portrait du XXIe siècle. Philarmonie de Paris. https://philharmoniedeparis.fr/fr
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