ART-FOOTBALL: Romário, Zidane, Rivaldo, Messi, four films by Rafael Campos Rocha
JOSÉ BENTO FERREIRA
To my father
“It was a beautiful match, both teams played in advance, much better than those matches in which nothing ever happens!” How come nothing happens? As if nothing happened in abstract paintings, sculptures, films or installations. Certainly things do happen in Pollock, for an instance. Perhaps seeing those things is not a matter of perception as it is of knowing some sort of language we call the history-of-art. The structure of that language seems to be occult in traditional aesthetic experience. Although in our time it is brought up to light, firstly by the modernist search for “self-definition” and right afterwards by the (post-modern? contemporary? post-historic?) appropriation of the philosophical concept of “self-consciousness”.
It would sound naive to say that nothing happens in tough, tactical football matches, especially when you talk to someone touched by the “fever pitch”, as brilliantly diagnosed British writer Nick Hornby in a novel that enacts the philosophical experience of realising it. As it sounds naive to pledge indifference towards certain forms of modern and contemporary art, for that is not at all a judgment as it is the lack of the language, structure, or fever that sets in motion some experience. Which by the way is not necessarily beneficial, as Hornby finds out, ironically appealing to the state of disinterest, also philosophically recognizable.
Rafael Campos Rocha presents in his “films” such a journey for self-knowledge. Except the “fever pitch” is quite a common-place among us South-Americans, say an endemic disease. The really extraordinary operation would be the disclosure of a much unusual condition, let’s call it the museum-pitch: dedicated, unconditional love, passionate, rigorous study of the great art-historical themes present and past combined altogether with the sharp, cruel consciousness of the end of the history of art as an objective knowledge, as anything other than narrative.
Such drama lies beneath the soft, somewhat sad conversation of those “films” that compare major players of our time to difficult, more famous than known great masters. Smartly the references taken from the world of football are kept at short range while the artworld ones are timeless. Certainly the artist has seen other giants such as Zico, Falcão, Careca and Maradona, but that would take him to the golden ages. He knows they are gone and that it’s not the end. So he talks about the era of disenchantment in football as well as in art. He tells us what we know, that one might very well admire Zidane for his technique, but it takes a lot of football-knowledge to really peek into his genius. But more importantly, something that is not so obvious: the same happens with art.
Then it seems to me he doesn’t talk art to football fans, he talks football to the artworld. And he says art is not the thrilling encounter of two desperate disorganized teams, full of goals and emotion. That’s entertainment, maybe. Real football isn’t so, neither real art. The beauty of football lies within the pressure imposed by attacking players on the opposing defense, and the counter-strike set up by defensive players. It is not explicit. The beauty of contemporary art lies within realising that the experience of beauty depends on a given context, it is no gift from Being, the Absolute Spirit, Mother-Earth or whatever metaphysical illusions might be conceived. One must know it in order to like it.