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A collaborative installation by Robyn Backen, Harry Barnett, Terry Hayes.

There is an interesting phenomenon that finds itself of necessity incorporated into most sporting events, particularly those that place a strain on stamina, this is the experience of scheduled interruptions. Most games require a break in play in order to allow players to rest, revive, take refreshment and review their tactics. The 'break' also allows for an audience to take time out from the focussed and often intense concentration of the viewing tensions of any given contest.


The 'half time break' is the typical space or interlude of a game, such intermissions are programmed and can therefore be anticipated tactically against fixed time frames. All present know when they are impending. Intervals can be said to contradict the eventful nature of the game itself, they are understood as uneventful gaps in proceedings where the spectacular arena, the field of play remains featured momentarily in the absence of the spectacle taking place upon it.


The interval arrives as waiting time, break time, put on hold pending the imminent resumption of play. There is a sense in which intervals are inconsequential, nondescript and unstructured episodes, in comparison to the strictly regulated and prescribed nature of the game itself.


This stoppage in time of the sporting interval, incidental to the main game, if viewed as a spectacle in its own right displays a curious medley/melody/muddle of goings-on; a spectacle of a very different kind. The festive, restive, often bored murmurings of a waiting audience can make for compelling viewing if we observe the inadvertent play that erupts inbetween the halves of action. 


There is however another kind of sporting interruption that has a different sort of intrigue: the arrival of the unscheduled stoppage. This creates an altogether different atmosphere, the outcome of inclemency: the intrusion of 'bad' weather.


Inclemency is the bane of the sporting world, the spoil-sport. Promoters anxiously survey the skies for signs of its approach. Even those games that reluctantly continue in the wet find themselves marred as spectacle, skills are rendered clumsy in the slippery conditions, games find themselves riddled with errors and mistakes, timing is out, finesse is lost, precision rendered imprecise.


In an age of urgency that gathers impatience around it, unscheduled stoppages or disruptions are poorly tolerated. The phenomenon of the rain delayed or rain interrupted stoppage ruptures the continuum or flow of play-time. It interrupts the scheduled program and is received as an unwelcome and uninvited intrusion that not only has the capacity to delay action but in more serious cases the effrontery to cause cancellation and abandonment. There is a sense of rain's impertinence, it's inconsiderateness in the circumstances: Why here? Why now? Is it ever going to stop?


Expectations are stalled as the weather sets-in: 'there may not be the possibility of any play today'. in the meantime we will just have to wait-and-see…


Break in Play engages with the predicament of what occurs or takes place in the space of the sporting spectacle, when there is supposedly no possibility of play taking place. Initiatives appear to re-route and reorganise around the scheduled event in its absence, diverting attention to the causal culprit: the misbehaviour and mischievousness of the rain itself. Rain makes an 'appearance' as a less orthodox opponent and an alternate game played by quite different rules ensues.


The diversion arises as an alteration of the state of expectancy, expectations are 'swivelled' onto different pathways of occupation, looking for lines of least resistance leading to alternate activity. These are the divergent paths of the delta that evacuate the vacancy of inactivity into alternate channels of recreation, that can occupy the waiting and quicken its sluggish pace towards self-amusement.


The inconvenience and hazards of rain promote waryness of its infiltration: the dread of the leak, the fear of the chill, it can stall activity and in severity bring events to a stand-still.


To be at a standstill, whilst suggesting incapacity also connotes an enforced wait-and-see pause in activity conducive to reflection.


Reflection is considered a ponderous business, associated more with art galleries than the more phrenetically disposed sporting venues. Break in Play decelerates play-time towards a stand-still revealing the mercurial incidentals that constitute another kind of spectacle: the dance of the downfall itself: the patterns of the pitter patter.


Catalogue Essay by Terry Hayes Jan 2006

press release

The world of art and the world of sport are rarely on speaking terms "Break in Play" is an unusual exhibition in bringing the two together and allowing a conversation to ensue.


The Chrissie Cotter Gallery, administered by the Marrickville Council and committed to encouraging innovative and contemporary forms of art, is situated between tennis courts and a bowling club and as such provides an ideal venue for a dialogue to occur between art and sport. With the media focus currently on the Australian Open Tennis Tournament I Melbourne, this exhibition is timely, in that it engages specifically with the sport of tennis.


"Break in Play" is a collaborative installation that explores the phenomenon of the sporting event as an extremely time-conscious activity, where timing in and of itself could well be said to be the main game. Strict time-frames structure the passages of sporting play and create their episodic, cumulative nature. Timing is of paramount importance to the outcome of any given contest.


"Break in Play" engages with the quandary of interruption, the situation where play finds itself held up due to the arrival of rain. In this instance, the arena of a tennis court finds itself flooded, prompting a secession of play, and this in turn prompts the eventfulness of rain itself stealing the show, in staging a quite different spectacle for those in attendance.


Inclemency is the bane of the sporting world, the spoil-sport. Promoters anxiously survey the skies for signs of its approach. Even those games that reluctantly continue in the wet find themselves marred as spectacle, skills are rendered clumsy in slippery conditions, games become riddled with errors and mistakes, timing is out, finesse is lost, precision rendered imprecise.


"Break in Play" engages with the predicament of what occurs or takes place in the space of the sporting spectacle, when there is supposedly no possibility of play taking place. Occurences (initiatives?) appear to re-route (reorganise) around the scheduled event in its absence, diverting attention to the causal culprit: the misbehaviour and mischief of the rain itself. Rain takes on the guise of wily opponent and an alternate game with a very different set of rules is played out.


"Break in Play" is intentionally diversionary. The diversion arises as an alteration of a state of expectancy; expectations are 'swivelled' onto different pathways of occupation, looking for lines of least resistance into alternate activity, these are the divergent paths of the delta that evacuate the vacancy of inactivity into alternate channels of recreation that can occupy the waiting and quicken its sluggish pace towards self-amusement.


To be at a standstill, whilst suggesting incapacity also connotes an enforced wait-and-see pause in activity conducive to reflection. Reflection is considered a ponderous business, associated more with art galleries than the more phrenetically disposed sporting venues. "Break in Play" decelerates play-time towards a stand-still revealing the mercurial incidentals that constitute another kind of spectacle: the dance of the downfall itself: the patterns of the pitter patter.


A nocturnal flooded tennis court, flood lights illuminate the deluge – as a down pour of photons: a court drenched in light, a court drenched at night. Missiles in the mizzle, drama in drizzle. The game of tennis refracted through films of water.