Gösta Röver

Can contemporary art find a place in spectator sports? Gösta Röver decided to find out—by sponsoring the Sport Verein Erbsen (Erbsen sports club), a men’s soccer team near her hometown of Göttingen. Röver, who now resides in Berlin, proposed an “imagetransfer” project to the minor-league team: She would purchase and design their uniforms, provided the players would wear them— with her logo—for the 1998–99 season. Though skeptical at first, the team accepted her offer and Röver obtained the rights to record every game. On Sunday afternoons, from September to June, the players of Erbsen ran about the field, kicking the ball, the artist’s name and her slogan—“FREIE PROJEKTE + PRODUKTE” (free projects and products)—emblazoned across their chests. For the artist, each of the twenty-eight games was an exhibition, that is, a chance for her work to be seen in a public space.

With the show at Kuckei + Kuckei, Röver’s image transfer came full circle. After having introduced art into the world of amateur sports, Röver brought the soccer game into the gallery. Here, one could examine, hanging on a clothes rack, the first, rejected edition of the uniforms (the logo exceeded league standards by a few centimeters). The rest of the show took the form of a multimedia installation, with video sequences and stills of the games (the latter presented in light boxes), an interactive computer program, and postcards with the team’s playing schedule.

In earlier works, Röver has been concerned with interrogating the relationship between images and narrative. To this end, she has manipulated clips from obscure action films and created fake movie sequences using her friends as actors. This show, then, might be viewed as an attempt to liberate images from a narrative structure, in this case, one imposed by the rules and measured duration of a soccer game. Light boxes, named after the dates of specific games, presented stills from the soccer team’s matches in a storyboard-like grid. Yet these images failed to tell a complete story. Instead of choosing the highlights, Röver captured moments that have little to do with the narrative of a soccer game: an isolated knee, a ball flying in the air, a net hanging against a goal post. A double-sided light box, hanging from the ceiling and entitled 14:45:18, offered on each side a still of one of the goals juxtaposed with a close-up of the white chalk lines in the grass. By focusing on the temporal and physical limits of the match, Röver calls attention to the frame within which the event takes place.

With the video, Röver moved from a consideration of the frame to an attempt to transform the content of the event. Behind the camera, the artist is interested in finding images of her own work rather than in following the ball. As the players shout, the suspense builds around a given play, only to be broken by a close-up of Röver’s logo on a chest moving across the playing field. Following Guy Debord, Röver acknowledges the omnipresence of the spectacle and its endless commodification: One event can offer visibility to many others.

Jennifer Allen