The Politics of Sport come under investigation in timely South London Gallery show

By Mark Sheerin | 09 August 2012
colour photo of a heap of sporting trophies
Aleksandra Mir, Triumph (2009). Installation view© all rights reserved. Image courtesy South London Gallery
Exhibition: Pursuit of Perfection – The Politics of Sport, South London Gallery, London, until September 14 2012

As London 2012 is demonstrating, the Olympic Games are both sport at its best and also at its most political. And it is unlikely the LOCOG brand police would endorse the current show at the South London Gallery.

While Britain soaks up the glory of an unlikely medal rush, artist Aleksandra Mir sends up our sporting aspirations with a monumental installation called Triumph. This consists of a collection of 2,529 trophies which, relocated to a gallery, do not amount to very much at all.

Other works in the show comment on baseball and the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. And yet it is football which garners the most attention, as five artists line up to question our global obsession with the sport. If you needed reminding, the new season is just around the corner.

But the team warming up in Southwark Town Hall next door are getting ready to claim lives rather than goals. Here, visitors will find an epic computer-generated rendering of US army training exercise in the Horn of Africa.

Artist John Gerrard choreographs a vast virtual spectacle and an indirect comment on the five ring circus which comprise the opening and closing ceremonies of the Olympic games. If sport tends to war, in this way, its politics need some correction. This show suggests there is nothing innocuous about our summer of sport.

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