Watching the Sacramento Kings: Photographs by Vesna Pavlovic
January 29 – March 13, 2005
In life, there are players and spectators. Most of the population, at least in the theatrical sense, is composed of spectators. We are spectators in front of the television, at the movies, while driving, in art museums and at sporting events. In each of these distinct situations, the role of spectator generates its own expectations of behavior. It is important then, that Vesna Pavlovic and Vladimir Tupanjac's "Watching" project investigates only the spectacle of sports. Specifically, they depict the spectators of professional basketball games, in this case the Sacramento Kings.
From Belgrade, Pavlovic and Tupanjac have grown up with and share the Yugoslav love of basketball. For them, the analysis of audience actions and reactions is more than an investigation of the psychology of a single individual; it is a cultural investigation as well. Pavlovic's role as a photographer at these events is multifaceted. She is at once a fan, artist, sociologist, documentarian and, most importantly, a spectator. However, it is not the players that interest her most, but those who come to watch them.
Artists throughout history have observed and represented spectators as witnesses to events. Photographers, particularly photojournalists, often feature witnesses of natural disasters, war and human conflict, and sporting events. However, Pavlovic's seemingly straightforward black-and-white photographs do more than journalistically record—they probe beyond the faces she portrays, finding beauty and ugliness, pathos and humor.
Pavlovic and Tupanjac have pursued similar projects in other parts of the world, beginning their investigations in Belgrade with images of fans watching live broadcasts of the Yugoslav national basketball team during the World Championships in 2002. These photo sessions took place in the city's cafes, homes, streets and squares, and the results were presented in the Salon of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Belgrade.
The second phase of the project featured spectators watching European and National League games in person throughout the 2002-03 season. Next, Pavlovic traveled to the United States to investigate the passion and zeal of Sacramento Kings fans. In directing attention to this dedicated audience and comparing it to the first two phases of their work, Pavlovic and Tupanjac aimed to study the reaction to sport as a global phenomenon. Their work raises questions about the spectacle of contemporary basketball through an analysis of audiences in diverse cultural, social and political contexts.
Pavlovic and Tupanjac's survey of the human response to sport does not end in Sacramento. The pair recently completed a fourth phase as they witnessed and documented a series of basketball games at the Olympic Games in Athens. Bringing the endeavor full circle, the project will be presented in its entirety during the European Basketball Championship to be held in Belgrade in September 2005.