The ‘Headbutt Incident’ and the Abstract Language of Sport

Pointing, pacing, limping …. headbutting? I sat down with performative video artist Laresa Kosloff to discuss her contribution to the Six Moments in Kingston project and the challenges of colliding art and football. Laresa’s Kingston ‘moment’ is the infamous incident in 1980 when star Aussie Rules player, Phil Carman head-butted umpire, Graeme Carbery resulting in the then longest ever suspension in VFL history (20 weeks). Inspired by the ‘headbutt incident’ Laresa is currently working on an abstract interpretation of the moment that investigates the unique and universally understood language of sport.

Laresa Kosloff, working sketch (3) for Six Moments in Kingston Project, 2019

Laresa has often been drawn to the curious theatrics and abstract nature of sport throughout her practice, having worked in the past inside velodromes, with lawn bowlers and even once filming trapeze artists. When approached by the Six Moments in Kingston curators to investigate the ‘headbutt incident’, Laresa grappled with finding a way to bring sensitivity and critical analysis to the moment without being dismissive or disrespectful to the footballing community. As with most of her practice, she navigates this thin line through carefully choreographed humour and slapstick comedy, keeping this quirky work accessible and open to all.

Laresa Kosloff, working sketch (2) for Six Moments in Kingston Project, 2019

She has spent hours going through interviews and game footage, and sketching the postures and movements inherent to the game. Through this process she began to map out the language of gestures, emotions and the body that are universally understood to sporting fans across the globe.

Laresa has begun to work with local footballers and artists to perform the gestures in the vacuum of a white cyclorama studio space. Decorated with a printed black hole in the centre, the clean white space begins to ask questions; What happens when you take away the context of the game? What’s left without the ball or the goal posts? What happens when it ‘doesn’t look like football’ anymore?

Laresa Kosloff, working sketch (1) for Six Moments in Kingston Project, 2019

To develop her final choreography, Laresa has produced a mountain of annotated sketches of these figures. Some of her sketches show her figures hunched over in despair and defeat, only to leap up again the next moment, shoulders square, hands clapping, the picture of confidence once more. In others, the figures gesture wildly at each other, clasping an injured knee, or pointing purposefully across the empty space. Laresa refers affectionately to these displays as the “absurd theatrics” of sport that through her deadpan choreography become remarkably charming.

The final work will be screened at the St Kilda Football Club during the Six Moments in Kingston bus tour. To book your spot on the bus visit the Kingston Arts website.