Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Short notes on "Beyond Football - shifting interests and identity". Part I

Beyond Football - shifting interests and identity
Curator: Emeka Udemba
25 June-8 July 2011 at SAVVY Contemporary, Berlin
in collaboration with Goethe-Institut Nigeria

In this series Uche James Iroha takes frontal photographs of chic women in front of football gates, wearing strong coloured clothes while holding a ball and giving the viewer a straightforward look. Due to the artist's handling of perspective the models dominate the background and sometimes even appear bigger than the gates: just leaf through the catalogue to see the reclining woman. The nets of the football gates appear torn and would need to be rewoven.

Uche James Iroha's photos at SAVVY: Bukez and Gele

elegantly dressed women in high heels are goalkeeping torn football gates.
Divas with balls! this is the image that stuck with me from the "Beyond Football..." exhibition.

This larger than life woman and her two balls (whose pink has been smartly accentuated by the photographer, I guess); earrings and watch in place, lipstick matching the balls on the ground, arms crossed, head on one side with an inescapable look. irresistible! ironic, strong, playful.

Her game mates: the woman keeping her right foot on the ball, wearing black-rimmed glasses, golden jewels and red high heels; her posture seems to signal: I'm ready to play. I sense a playful tension in these photos: does the pink on the balls instigate the viewer (the player) like the red in a corrida does?

and when I looked closer I realized my diva with 2 balls is actually standing behind the old, broken football gate. From this privileged spot, from beyond the football ground, she is facing us, self-assertive.
The photographer did shift our interest: the woman is standing, the gate is broken, the frame is old, the game needs renewal.

P.S. The strong characters photographed by Uche James Iroha are in good company at SAVVY:
Andrew Esiebo's Grannys on the opposite wall: double portraits of African women photographed once as football players and then as grandmas surrounded by kids. What's a grandma's role, if not teaching her grandsons how to play (football)?
Katrin Ströbel's Installation on a nearby wall: a coloured photograph placed over the enlarged portrait of two African football players.
A matter of perspective: small "desperate wives" in the foreground and black&white, life-size "handsome daughters" behind them. Traveling images of femininity, ideals going global, football going local?
suggestive choice of media: the photograph is heavily framed while the b&w "handsome daughters" are a light wall-paper.

Press release

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