Monday, June 11, 2012

Total Landscape

Johan Cruyff, total-footballing in a total-landscape...

The 2012 Euro Soccer Cup marks the 30-year anniversary of the peak of the legendary “Total Football” tactical style developed by the Dutch and spearheaded by Johan Cruyff:
Space and the creation of it were central to the concept of total football…  “We discussed space the whole time.  Johan Cruyff always talked about where people should run and where they should, stand, and when they should not move.” 
The constant switching of positions that became known as total football came about only because of this spatial awareness.  “It was all about making space, coming into space, and organizing space- like architecture on the football pitch.” 

David Winner’s 2004 book Brilliant Orange explores this architecture and makes the case that this style of football is actually a direct extension of Dutch spatial creativity and polder politics.  This seems dubious, though perhaps in the case of Dutch football it applies, but that type of analysis simply doesn’t apply in the Americas [case in point:  Zizek’s famous and wrong-headed equivalence between national ideologies and toilet-types].  The difference being this:  European heads of state can proclaim “multi-culturalism has utterly failed” and they might be wrong, but at least people would know what they meant.  In the Americas, that statement is quite literally meaningless. 

But if Winner’s book discussed soccer and the creation of space as architecture, then we might say that Michel Serres’ TheParasite considers it from a landscape perspective:
A ball is not an ordinary object, for it is what it is only if a subject holds it… Let us consider the one who holds it.  If he makes it move around him, he is awkward, a bad player.  The ball isn’t there for the body; the exact contrary is true:  the body is the object of the ball; the subject moves around this sun.  Skill with the ball is recognized in the player who follows the ball and serves it instead of making it follow him and using it… Playing is nothing else but making oneself the attribute of the ball as a substance.  The laws are written for it, defined relative to it, and we bend to these laws.  Skill with the ball supposes a Ptolemaic revolution of which few theoreticians are capable, since they are accustomed to being subjects in a Copernican world where objects are slaves. [p 225-226]

Applying this materialist reading to a soccer match shows offers compelling conceptual tools for understanding space that begin to suggest how designers might conceptualize the forces at play in any landscape- kids playing, slopes eroding, a summer of drought, or a new apartment high-rise opening around the corner.  Rather than blaming sagging maintenance budgets, philistine users, or simply shrugging it off and saying “meh… what can you do?”, we might develop concepts and tools to grapple with the ambiguities and troubled interiors of retaining walls, geotextiles, concessionaires, and chimney swifts.

would this installation for World Toilet Day be any more or less awesome if these were German toilets?  No, because they did it in Berlin and it was rad there too.

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