Tomorrow is the opening of the exhibition Out Of Play in the National Football Museum in Manchester. One of the works exhibited will be ‘Unruly Pitch’, a collaborative project which I was invited to be part of with Jen Southern, Prof. Chris Speed and Chris Barker.
This project aimed to track and visualise the movement of six players in the annual Uppies and Downies mass football game in Workington. One of the last remaining football games of its kind, the match is played throughout the town centre in an unpredictable game without rules. Using small GPS devices to track the movement of 6 players (only 5 recorded GPS data), the visualisations will reveal some aspects of the game and in particular the irregularity of the pitch.
The final project is composed of 3 different pieces. A printed ‘map’, a replica of the ball engraved with the tracks, and a video drawing the game dynamically with footage in the background. Each of the three pieces convey a different dimension of the game. The map, recalling survey maps, is intend to describe the ‘pitch’. It is a visualisation of the ‘objective data’. Moreover, it gives a reflection of the game from the players internal point of view thanks to the ‘hidden’ interview based text. The video gives an immersive and dynamic vision of the action. However it is also an outside point a view as it is filmed not by a player but a spectator. The ball represents the symbolic aspect of the game, perceived as the ‘Graal’ by the players.
This game could be described as a tactical, organized chaos. Everyone knows in which team everyone they are, even if there is no visual distinction; they have ‘secret’ tactics (like key words, touch codes…) to communicate. It is all about the group and how they are going to move together to get the ball on one or the other side of the town. Jen asked an interesting question regarding this during one of our discussions: how is moving together different to moving individually? The tools used were GPS watches and the result is individual tracks; they are ‘so much about the individual and often visualised as an individual trajectory’ (Jen’s words). What we wanted to convey and study with this work wasn’t the individual interpretation of GPS signals, but how they work in relation to each other. There is something quite unusual with this game as it is both about groups and individuals – as they all play for the same goal but at the end only one player can throw the ball and can keep it as memory of the victory.
Finally another interesting element of the game we talked about during the project was the evolution of the pitch in relation with the modification of the geography of the town and how it modified the game. Some fields are now a construction site, buildings have been demolished or constructed… And because the town, or even further (as there is no rule and no boundaries defined) can be used by the players with no limits. A parallel study of the evolution of the game and the geography of the town could be very interesting.
Here are the 3 elements of the final work. Soon the pictures of the exhibition itself.