Jesper Nordahl

Mångkulturellt Centrum, MKC

“We are flesh and geography,” writes the Italian ethnographer Franco La Cecla. In a world where we continually lose our surroundings to travel—both forced and chosen—community is an itinerary more than an identity. Jesper Nordahl has a keen understanding of how communities create themselves on the move and find ways of belonging that fall oddly between the local and the international, between stability and displacement. His series of photographs “Gasoline and God,” 2000, shows gas stations with mosques in Saudi Arabia, while the video Field trip, 2002, offers a guided tour through the Latvian town Karosta to uncover its history as a former Russian military site. Evidently a seasoned traveler, Nordahl seems to choose cultural curiosities that do not quite belong to a place and yet could never exist outside it.

Nordahl’s recent video installation, JCC vs Uppsala, Botkyrka, 2004, explores the communities that have been created around the sport of cricket. The match Nordahl filmed, between the local Jinnah Cricket Club and the visiting team Uppsala, will certainly look familiar, if not exciting, to cricket fans—but Swedes are unlikely to be counted among them. The accompanying video Jinnah Cricket Club—a series of interviews with individual team members—readily demonstrates that the sport is a recent and an exotic import. The players may speak Swedish and even carry Swedish passports, but they have come primarily from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan. While identifying their origins, the young men seem far more interested in explaining their ambitions for the game in a cold country, from convincing the locals to take interest in the sport to participating in international tournaments under the Swedish flag. In a land renowned for ice hockey, the task is far from easy. As one player solemnly recounts, when he wrote a term paper about his passion for cricket, his teacher had never even heard of the game, let alone the downfalls of a sticky wicket.

Whenever flesh meets geography, politics is seldom far behind. Presenting a sport that has been endlessly displaced, Nordahl’s videos confound the borders that divide habitat from empire, adaptation from oppression, play from rule. An invention of England, cricket owes its internationalism to colonization, which spread the game throughout the British Empire, later the Commonwealth, and beyond. But who would have thought that cricket would arrive in Sweden via Afghanistan, when England is right around the corner? In these displacements, traditional rivalries—as between Pakistan and India—have been forgotten by the JCC members, only to be replaced by new ones.

For the opening of the show, Nordahl organized a second Jinnah match, this time against Botkyrka. Hosting the game and showing the video along with cricket equipment at a multicultural center in Fittja—a troubled immigrant suburb of Stockholm—adds yet another conflicted destination. Part art, part communal activity, this installation adds a complex local layer to Nordahl’s project Cricket, 2003, which included an interview with Henry Olonga. The Zimbabwean cricketer explained how he went into exile in England after protesting Mugabe’s regime during the 2003 Cricket World Cup hosted by Zimbabwe, Kenya, and South Africa. By following the itinerary of cricketers, Nordahl’s work captures an emerging form of nonterritorial collective politics, whose popularity escapes populism.

Jennifer Allen