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4 - 27 April 2008

Nicola Atkinson Does Fly

& Hanna Tuulikki

The starting point for WINNERS & LOSERS is the Drumchapel Table Tennis Club where Nicola and Hanna spent a week as artists in residence. The club is one of the biggest in Scotland with over 300 members actively playing table tennis every week. During their stay, they became acutely aware of the ways in which public art and sport often share a similar role within areas of regeneration. The work seeks to explore ideas of performance in new territories. A set of hand painted t-shirts form part of two performances where players battle it out in separate games across the city. The experience of the matches will be augmented by a live mix of sounds sourced from the movement of the balls and the players’ preferred music to practice with. The performances will also feature Glasgow based drummer Shane Connolly. The work is about collaboration and competitiveness in a dialogue of sport and music.


This artwork was part of the DIY SHOW
Nicola & Hanna presened a short Video DON’T STOP and discuss the process at the Drumchapel Community Centre, Glasgow, Friday 4 April.@ 7pm.
Two locations and dates:-The first match took place at The Drumchapel Community Centre at 1pm, Friday 11April and the second at The DIY Show, 261 High St Glasgow at 2pm, Saturday 12 April.


I’m thinking about what Gordon Brown must have felt while watching table tennis with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao in Beijing, in January of this year. I think, as is customary, the British player lost the match and Mr Brown gave the crowd one of his infamous homemade, heart-warming smiles, the type which could easily be mistaken for a grimace. Here in Drumchapel’s impressively bright community centre, an altogether different game of table tennis is being played out with (to my untrained eye) the speed of an Olympic match. And while there are no political commentators to be mindful of, this game is even more carefully choreographed than the meeting of the two world leaders.

As the sound of the ball’s bounce echoes against the stage backdrop (exaggerated playfully with the positioning of huge microphones under the table), it becomes apparent this is more of a dance than a grudge match. The drumming in the background alerts the spectator to the already inherent sense of a rhythm, to the thread of a narrative being played out. What began with a dramatic drum-roll heralding the start of the performance settles into a cyclical pattern and then builds again towards something of a crescendo at the end.

This aptly named performance, Winners and Losers turns the age-old adage that sport is about winning in a competitive setting, on its head. It is a dialogue between two players in which the usual context of winning has been removed. As orange balls collect around the feet of the two nimble players, the most compelling desire is to see them keep the game in play and it is hard to resist the urge to step forward as a ball girl. Interestingly, though it is also difficult to remove the desire for a slightly stronger narrative in the absence of the usual satisfaction of seeing one man prevail against another.

The fact that these two men are playing to a pre-rehearsed musical score is not explained until the end when Nicola Atkinson Does Fly and Hanna Tuulikki explain how the project developed as artists in residence at the Drumchapel table tennis club. Unusually, there is no sense of being cheated or duped. Instead the pattern and sounds fall into place, as if someone had just handed over the synopsis to an un-translated Italian opera

Whether removing the element of competition is an idea likely to impress Mr Brown, Winners and Losers endures as a mesmerizing piece of performance and striking way of, perhaps, engaging more people in sport and art.


Lucy Adams, 12 April 2008





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