ELECTRONIC FOOTBALL LEAGUE
2 – 23 August, 2014
The idea of the football field as a constricted location where masculinity is constructed is an irony seldom lost on homosexual men who have not traditionally been welcomed into this exclusive zone of manhood. Contact sports, particularly the football codes, are sites of ambiguous messaging, where curious rituals of male bonding resolutely exclude women while (somehow) affirming masculine heterosexual identities. This Darwinian environment of brute survival that casts a shadow over formative years can be the stuff of nightmares for men of “questionable” sexuality. While ultimately many men might choose not to play the game, memories of sporting culture linger in a murky cauldron of inadequacy and heightened eroticism.
It is in this vortex of confusion, where sexual fantasy and ostracism from the tribe/team generate a brittle sense of identity, that David Spooner has positioned his soft sculptures to question masculinity as it is perceived through the filters of sporting prowess. There is a surreal element to Spooner’s textile sculptures in keeping with the Freudian view of a life force (Eros) fractured by memories of past experience and emerging deep from within a psyche damaged on the “field of dreams”. Working with traditional feminine crafts such as stitching and quilting, Spooner weaves a masculine overlay consisting of a quasi-mathematical numerological narrative based on the number sixteen – denoting the sixteen candles that represent coming of age and sixteen being the number of players in his imaginary football code.
Electronic Football League presents four teams as a mark of time, the captains (A, B, C and D) represent four seasons and each captain has 3 players from the remaining twelve, which make up four quarters. His game of numbers follows a unique form of quilting invented to capture personal histories and memories through tattoo like narratives embedded into each soft sculpture. The apparent undisciplined, handmade nature and lurid colours of Spooner’s eccentric players is set against a system of robotic rules and rigid game plans through which he invites audience to participate via a pulley system. In this way Spooner plays at being an engineer, enticing the viewer into a world where everyone should play.
Childhood experience and the way it shapes a life has been at the forefront of Spooner’s work from the beginning and he is want to test the audience with images that appear to have emerged from the subconscious recesses of early memory. These works are the extension of childhood fantasies; of make believe robots in sticky tape and wood. Electronic Football League, however, introduces a broader social view through which “the game” becomes an issue of identity confirmation and where the end game is conformity. The transition from play to tribal custom reflected by symbolic competition is dislocated for many gay men and not necessarily by choice. At this juncture Spooner focuses his practice with a startling vision that juxtaposes the mechanics of construction and childlike imagination with the overbearing rigours of rubric and team play. Importantly, while the work is more self-reflective than satirical it presents an analytical view of youth, sport and sexuality through a screen of humour that touches on the absurd. Thus Electronic Football League provides an entertaining if subversive account of growing up male – and gay.
David Broker, July 2014
Traded with the half time sirens.
A team of robotic footballers infected with the ‘Tiger Slime’ virus.
The Visitors seep into their clockwork socks. Sixteen footballers break away from the EFL code and journey from freezing stadium home world to over time across the cold mountains. On the other side you step into the vistitors home world, the hot archaepeligo .
Are you ready to play the game of Electronic Football?
David Spooner, 2014