National Football Museum gets technological upgrade as new exhibition opens with robots and gadgets galore

By Sam Harris | 22 June 2015

New exhibition at the National Football Museum looks at the wider relationship between art, technology and sport

a photo of five robots lined up in an office with a small football
Football Playing Humanoids© Courtesy National Football Museum
A new exhibition at the National Football Museum in Manchester has been demonstrating recent technological innovations inspired by the ‘beautiful game’ and exploring how technology interacts with art and sport.

Launched on June 19, and running until July 19, the Out Of Play exhibition explores the wider relationship between the sport and technology, particularly looking at how fans enjoy and respond to football. 

“Many people associate technology in football with the latest shirt or boots," says John O’Shea, curator of the project. "But more than the players, technology is about creating new ways for fans to interact with, learn about and experience the game.”

The museum’s immersive cinema space is being used to house the world premiere of Jer Thorp’s The Time Of The Game, a work that aims to capture the scale of the 2014 FIFA World Cup Final as a global event via the power of social media.

a photo of a shin pad with an electronic device attached to it
The 'Leg Shocker'© Courtesy National Football Museum
Using hundreds of images that were shared across the world by Twitter users, the installation highlights how people experienced the final differently because of their global locations and situations, even though the game remained the same.

Another installation aiming to make the most of social media is We Tripped El Hadji Diouf by Jason Eppink.

Previously shown at the Museum of Moving Image in New York, the curatorial project brings together imaginative and playful responses posted online to create a range of humorous ‘remixes’ of footballer El Hadji Diouf being fouled on the pitch.

Speaking about his pride of the work being showcased at the museum, Mr O’Shea added: “There is a level of humour, creativity and technological expertise in these works that goes beyond people’s traditional assumptions of football’s boundaries.

“Visitors will be encouraged to think about the wider implications, both positive and negative, of new technologies and the game football.”

a photo of a man on a football pitch with a small white and green object with wheels
Matthew Plummer Fernandez with Forest Green Rovers’ robot lawnmower © Courtesy National Football Museum
Also on display is the ‘SOCCKET’ ball, which uses an electricity-generating dynamo to allow people to produce enough energy to power lights and phones from a quick kick about; the ‘Leg Shocker’, a piece of wearable tech that simulates the effects of tackles for football videogame players; and a football-playing humanoid robot created by the University of Plymouth.

Other projects and art installations feature in the exhibition, with a number of artist residencies due to be launched.

Artists Jen Southern and Chris Speed have already started a work, entitled Unruly Pitch, putting GPS tags on players at this year’s traditional mob-football 'Uppies and Downies’ game in Workington, Cumbria.

A project by artist Matthew Plummer Fernandez will use Forest Green Rovers’ robot lawnmower to create art on the pitch. The museum is running an online ‘Archivathon’, bringing together Vine video clips to capture the shared highlights of the 2014/15 season.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

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