Minsky plays the advantage card

Artist Jason Minsky with his latest exhibition the Site Gallery, Sheffield
Artist Jason Minsky with his latest exhibition the Site Gallery, Sheffield

ARTIST Jason Minsky has called his sports-themed show at Site Gallery, Advantage, because one of the aspects it explores is the lengths athletes go to gain a competitive advantage.

The exhibition, part of Sheffield Hallam University’s Extraordinary Moves project as part of the  Cultural Olympiad programme, highlights the choices everyone makes to their advantage.

“Not just sport, but everything we do in our lives we make a decision about what we can do to improve it,” he says. “With human enhancement you could start with the glasses you and I are wearing and then at the other extreme might be riders in the Tour de France and what they got up to in the days of Tommy Simpson (the Briton who died during the race after taking a cocktail of amphetimines and alcohol).”

Minsky insists Advantage is “not intended as a polemic” but to both examine the science and the magic of performance.

One part of Advantage, an observation of the micro movements of athletes, is a piece produced through a residency at the Centre for Sports Engineering Research at Sheffield Hallam University.

The artist worked with the centre’s latest technology to examine the movement of an athlete and a dancer.  Reducing their physical movements into the most abstract form possible Minsky tracked a series of eight points on the body, through which he represents their actions in geometric animated form..

It is a triptych which represents the extremes of movement. In Son of Clen the effects of taking an advancement project has reduced the figure to an absurd stumbling movement whole A Mover and a Shaker presents the grace of a dancer.

“It’s about the choices they have made,” says the artist.

“From the rules of the game to the social etiquette, dress and media mechanisms around sport, Minsky is interested in sport’s capacity to generate tensions between the sublime and the ridiculous.

One of the things I love about sport is the absurdity of it all,” he says. “Take golf, how absurd is that?”

For the piece created especially for Site he looks at sport from the angle of its brand saturated media environments. He takes as his starting point a reproduction of the logo-infested backcloth behind sportsman, especially footballers, when they are interviewed on camera. And adjoining mirror places the viewer in the position of the interviewee or alternatively the perspective of the camera.

Minsky has invented his own logos which represent the system of accumulative advantage which operate among sportsman from building extraordinary bodies, to athletes developing absurd superstitions and belief systems for luck – such as tying your shoelaces in a particular way.

As you walk further into the installation the logos become distorted and the flimsy contstruction of the display is revealed. The final panel of logos is a climbing wall.

Climbing is an obvious metaphor,” says the artist. “The idea of going upwards and moving from the vertical to changing angles. The logos are bigger and have become overwhelming and confront you with the choices you are going to have to make.

There is also the literal representation of the risks associated with sport and the choices you have to make. Manchester-based Minsky, originally from London (and an Arsenal fan), has often incorporated sport into his work.

He has been artist in residence with Leeds Rhino rugby, once turned a gallery into a squash court and created a sculptural installation which suddenly turned into a velodrome complete with cyclists.

Minksy has been interested in the sport environment as a site of everyday performative interaction. From building extraordinary bodies, to athletes developing absurd superstitions and belief systems for luck, Minsky examines both the science and the magic of performance.

Advantage continues at the Site Gallery until June 5.