Critical Space

The Chicago Pile-1 was Enrico Fermi's first successful attempt to achieve a critical nuclear reaction, which occurred in 1942 in a squash court underneath the Stagg Stadium bleachers at the University of Chicago. The squash court was the only place on campus with thick enough walls and a sufficiently elevated ceiling to house the pile of graphite bricks and wooden timbers that constituted the first nuclear reactor. Thus, the nuclear bomb arguably owes its genesis to a sporting space.

Chicago Pile-1

Chicago Pile-1

But a sort of inverse is true as well. The nuclear bomb has had an undeniable genealogical impact on sporting spaces and bodies, from the doping wars of Cold War sport to the contemporary climate of electronic surveillance. To a degree, these have become opposing forces: on the one hand, doping has persisted beyond the earlier impetus of nation-state governments during the Cold War to a network of individual athletes, coaches and scientists who push the biochemical and physiological limits of the body in competition, while on the other hand the same technological infrastructure (both material and immaterial) that enabled a stable communications network in the case of a nuclear attack, Cold War surveillance and the rise of intelligent machines (DeLanda) is today leveraged by the World Anti-Doping Agency in the global surveillance of world-class, high-performance athletes.

"The critical State, or, better, the Critical Space … becomes critical by virtue of the instantaneity of means of mass communication as much as through the performances of delivery vectors of massive destruction. … The function of the eye becomes simultaneously that of the arm" (Virilio, The Lost Dimension, p.130).


2 responses to Critical Space

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  1. sportsBabel » D S NFORMAT ON says:

    [...] THE SQUASH COURT is presented as a unique site of aesthetic and political engagement for a critical sport art work. Not only does this site of sport resemble a traditional art gallery space with its sparse orthogonal shape and stark white walls, but it also belongs to a political genealogy that dates back to the earliest days of the Manhattan Project. [...]

  2. sportsBabel » CP1 Contemporary says:

    [...] Contemporary is an artist-run space located in an abandoned squash court. In this imagined space we offer curation and criticism of contemporary art that engages sport in a [...]