I stumbled across this old piece of writing today on my hard-drive and was surprised to find that I’m still very proud of it.
I originally wrote this for the Frieze Writer’s Prize, 2008. I didn’t win, of course.
There Will Be No Spectacle
You Dig the Tunnel, I’ll Hide the Soil, White Cube and
Shoreditch Town Hall, London, 4 Apr—10 May 2008
Match report by Charlotte Young
Player-manager Harland Miller and assistant coach Irene Bradbury’s team produced a disappointing result at their recent visit to the White Cube via Shoreditch Town Hall. Contrived and predictable, Miller had chosen, perhaps ill-advisedly to play a 4-5-1 formation for a performance desperately needing a strong sense of solidarity in order to tackle the potentially troublesome theme of the show – the work of celebrated gothic writer Edgar Allen Poe. Once outfield, the team exasperated the crowd, preferring to hold ground in midfield for the majority of the game, rather than to risk any direct or definite group attack.
Poor visibility and an uneven surface underfoot meant a slow and clumsy start in Shoreditch. The first goal was eventually scored 18 minutes into the first half at the Town Hall end. Jason Schulman’s clever attack, a small black mirror that when breathed upon revealed an etched portrait of Poe, was bang on target. 11 minutes later he clocked up a second with ‘Halo’. Superbly placed into the top right-hand corner, the powerful unearthly glow of the solitary gas candle proved pundits, many of who doubted the young Londoner’s ability up front, badly mistaken. A wise selection choice by Miller. Seconds later the tables almost turned when Cooper-Clarke, positioned controversially, but not for the first time on the back line, was forced to produce a fine diving save caused by his manager’s blunder – a steel sensory deprivation tank – with his eerie recitation of ‘The Pit and the Pendulum’ apparently radiating from the container. Overall, however, the first 45 minutes ended with the side looking tired and lacklustre.
The second half kicked off to greater anticipation at the more extravagant White Cube end. Again, the team seemed to find it difficult to gain momentum. A series of conceited and ungainly paintings struggled to keep possession in the box for the next 20 minutes, and were only redeemed by an unexpected tap-in over the line by the late Angus Fairhurst. Poached from the recent controversial advert for Opium perfume, the blacked-out image of Sophie Dahl in death throe-like pose held a marked resonance over the fans following young Fairhurst’s untimely suicide.
The fourth and final goal of the match came from a classic set piece by Mike Nelson. Connecting with a long ball inexpertly crossed from Miller’s ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’ downfield in the Hoxton Square, Nelson once again saved the day for his floundering boss. The sinister and brooding ‘Melnais Kakis (The Black Cat)’ was whacked into the roof of the net by a spectacular overhead kick. Nelson has been scoring left, right and centre this season, and is almost certainly being marked out by other managers for a possible transfer in the near future.
Miller and Bradbury’s star players have produced a predictably generic, yet admittedly effective outcome through sheer perseverance. Most of the team put in an officious but average performance, with the exception of the goal scorers and a couple other key figures. Miller needs to take time out to analyse the match and carefully consider the performance of each player. Only 4 goals from 36 internationally acclaimed pros – translating roughly to a 1-0 win from an 11-a-side team – is a dismaying result given the premise.
Brazilian wingback Roberto Carlos, on describing his time as a player under the management of current England incumbent Fabio Capello whilst at Real Madrid, also incidentally succeeds in summing up the viewer’s experience of this particular display with considerable accuracy:
“There will be no spectacle, it will be 1-0, 1-0, 1-0… But the team will always be there, correctly set up and balanced on the pitch. And always winning.”*
The group of artists formerly known as the yBas, now joined by their similarly bloody-minded contemporaries, are sticking with what they know best and playing the familiar tactics from their much-applauded back catalogue. But, compared to most of the competition, yes, they are still winning. Just.
You Dig the Tunnel, I’ll Hide the Soil (4-5-1): Cooper-Clarke; J Wilson, D Chapman, J Chapman, L Wilson; Fairhurst, Nelson, Gordon, Schneider, Marclay; Shulman.
Substitutes: Bremner, Craft, Emin, Fritsch, Fryer, Furnas, Graham, Harvey, Henning, Hirst, Kiefer, Lane, Martin, Miller, Morgan, Plessen, Howarth Rashman, Schnabel, Schoerner, Shaw, Sherman, Skreber, Steinitz, Tomaselli, Wyn Evans.
Goals: Schulman 18, 29, Fairhurst 62, Nelson 80
Man of the Match: J Schulman
Referee (not present): E A Poe (U.S.A.)
* From Capello: The First Interview, Tim Adams, The Observer Sport Monthly, June 2008.