Vesna Pavlovic and Vladimir Tupanjac
Watching is a project based on a series of black and white photographs by Vesna Pavlovic and texts by Vladimir Tupanjac depicting people watching basketball games on live television in private and public spaces, as well as people attending games in the sports venues themselves. The project has been realized over three years, 2002-2005, and included several phases:
The first phase of the project (Watching 01) is limited to images of people watching live television broadcasts of the Yugoslav national basketball team during the World Championships in Indianapolis from August 29 through September 9,2002. Picture-taking sessions took place in different locales in and around Belgrade, in cafes, homes, squares, and streets.
The second phase of the project (Watching 02) featured spectators watching in person basketball club Partizan playing European and National League games, at the sports arena “Pionir” in Belgrade.
Third phase (Watching 03) includes photographs of basketball spectators in Arco Arena in Sacramento, watching regular season and playoff games of the Sacramento Kings.
The fourth phase (Watching 04) includes photographs of the audience at basketball tournament at the Olympic Games in Athens, 2004
The last phase of the project was its public presentation during the European Basketball Championship in Belgrade in 2005 in the exhibition “Welcome to Basketball Land, 1947-2004”
Through documenting the various situations of absorbing a sporting event, this project engages the relationship between spectators and performers, between the audience and the event itself, irrespective of whether the game is seen live and in person or mediated through televisual images. The phenomenon of watching a sporting event is treated here as one of the key social models of identification, loyalty, enjoyment, confidence, and collective spirit. Also though, the phenomenon of sport is encompassed within this project in all of its complexity. Sport is one of the most vital and widespread forms of the emanation of power and capital as well as one of the mainstays of media omnipresence and the notion of "the society of the spectacle".
Basketball, in global terms, is one of the most popular sports today, and deserves special attention because "it corresponds in the highest degree to the epoch of sophisticated technologies, the culture of media and information, [it is] a multi-media spectacle of the highest order". The importance of basketball in Yugoslavia is historical in character: Yugoslavia "grew up" with basketball, and became modern, urban, and worldly during the same period. Yugoslavs have managed to preserve the identity and awareness of specific cultural values through basketball, while at the same time finding pleasure in the love of the game in its global context, and the love of everything that makes basketball the social and cultural phenomenon of our age. In this respect, it is essential that true basketball fans are behind this project. All participants enjoy watching and playing basketball and embrace the game as a part of everyday life, in the routines and cultural environments in which they live and work.
This project is intended to point to the idea of necessity in comprehending and analyzing both aspects of the event. The general view is that the sport exists because of the audience that imbues it presence with a raison d'etre and provides a specific sort of exclusivity and historical importance. On the other hand, the issue behind the motivation of this presence is indeed compelling and raises many questions: Do the spectators flock to the sports arena or do they watch it on television? Do they watch it publicly in a community setting, or privately in a well-regulated domestic space? Is it the game itself, the spectacle of the game, or something else that draws and sustains such remarkable support from the populace? How do these meanings shift and renegotiate themselves under changing cultural circumstances? While watching basketball, is the suspense and mental concentration of the spectators conditioned by the uncertainty of the game's outcome, or by the nature of the game itself? Can we speak about the identical and generic aspects of basketball as well as the differences in the modes of perception in various environments? And can we maintain an awareness that sport as a phenomenon possesses an entirely different social status in different communities and in different environments?
The reactions of spectators-the exchange of energy between the players on the court and the audience in the stands or in front of a television screen-will serve the author of this project to research the nature of the encounter between "the ordinary" and "the extraordinary". The “Watching Project” will pose questions about the nature of the spectacle of contemporary basketball through an analysis of audience actions and reactions in order to record the importance of basketball for Yugoslav society at large. The different factors-cultural, social, political, and so on responsible for rendering it so important can be read in and through these reflected images.
Belgrade, Watching Project Team
Since August 2002 Vesna Pavlovic and Vladimir Tupanjac