Maria Schad

Courtesy of Maria SchadCourtesy of Maria Schad
Courtesy of Maria SchadCourtesy of Maria Schad
Maria Schad
selected works
oil on canvas, each 30cm x 30cm

In response to Max's lament that hockey has not been featured often in the work of serious artists, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to present some of the work of Swedish artist Maria Schad, whom I met in Copenhagen this summer during an afternoon of flânerie. It was one of those really neat, unexpected encounters when two individuals from very distinct backgrounds find they share a great deal of common interest — in this case, art, critical theory and sport. Growing up in Sweden, Maria had always been captivated by the speed of hockey, and that fascination occasionally resurfaces in her work — the first thing I remarked when I saw these works was how fast they were.

"To play hockey is constantly to repeat that men have transformed motionless winter, the hard earth, and suspended life, and that precisely out of all of this they have made a swift, vigorous, passionate sport." — Roland Barthes, What is Sport?

Hockey and the Aesthetics of Speed

Max Ryynänen, a philosopher based in Helsinki, writes about sport and the aesthetics of speed on his blog, The Art of Ice Hockey:

In his dromology, philosophy of speed (and visual culture) Paul Virilio discusses speed and acceleration as dominant aesthetic phenomena in today's world. … Landscapes roll outside of car windows, the aesthetics of contemporary films and TV programs is based upon a high speed (action, fast cutting), and information runs through virtual highways within seconds when something important happens. … Speed has strangely, though, not gained as much more relevance in sports as in other fields of culture. Visuality is the key to understanding trends in contemporary sports.

With regards to his brief analysis of hockey and speed, I wanted to add the following comments: First, the size of the NHL ice surface is much smaller than those used in European and international hockey, which compromises the ability for athletes to achieve peak speed while skating. In turn, we have more collisions and more seating for the owners of capital.

Second, most people only ever get to see the world's best hockey players in mediated form via television. When one goes to the stadium for the first time (or if one doesn't often get the opportunity), the comment upon seeing the athletes live is inevitably something like: "I can't believe how fast they are!" In other words, the TV apparatus slows down the action from an aesthetic perspective. Not only does class and sport spectatorship intersect as a spatial issue (sitting at the stadium versus sitting at a remote location), then, but also as a temporal issue (seeing the speed of athletes live versus seeing a visually-altered speed of athletes on TV).

Third, Ryynänen points out the paradox that hockey games from an earlier era looked faster on television than those of today. This paradox might be explained (following Virilio) by developments in the technical apparatus of television production and consumption: the resolution and frame rate of television cameras and receivers are much faster now at a lower marginal cost. In the past, with poorer quality video, the players were relatively too fast for the cameras to keep up with them. Today, despite faster players, the speed of TV has now leapfrogged to the point that it arrests players in motion, so to speak, making the game look slower than it used to look when watched on television. In this, we echo Kittler's remark that time axis manipulation is at the core of much mass media entertainment.