The Art of Noise or rather film and sound; art with no dialogue, Douglas Gordon’s look at Zidane in his 21st Century Portrait of pure sound.


I am going to the Stedelijk museum in Amsterdam sometime at the end of August – to see their reinvention of the old building into a bigger space under its new direction by Ann Goldsmith.

I like these kinds of spaces because you get a wide cross-section of the visiting public, becoming less reverential spaces that can often intimidate genuine response to the work on display.

I know some people really don’t like the fact that children can go and have a tantrum while mum and dad take in a Mondrian. But on the whole I think it is far better than the super-hushed and stark don’t cough or sneeze scenarios that can bear down in these places.

And as a side; no I don’t particularly like museums current trend for creating *theme park* art exhibitions, the kind that actively court ticket sales through a route of art-o-tainment relational aesthetics. But did also like the fact that while passing through Louise Bourgeois’ retrospective hearing a little girl of about three comment on her Amoeba sculpture, saying it was like mashed potato, I left enlightened!


Louise Bourgeois Amoeba
Louise Bourgeois : Amoeba

“‘At the dinner table when I was very little, I would hear people bickering – the father to the mother choosing to defend herself. To escape the bickering around me I started modeling the soft bread with my fingers. With the dough of the French bread – sometimes still warm – I would make little figures. And I would line up these little figures on the table and this was really my first sculpture”

Louise Bourgeois, May 1999

The last time I was at the Stedelijk was to see Douglas Gordon who again started a mini debate around one of his video installations Hand and Foot. When a couple of women started with “Oh no! not another video installation” rant as they thought art-proper was to be interacted with in a static form as moving image imposes itself. So receiving the image rather than engaging.

I never understood that argument; I saw the work in its whole, complete with sound and engaged one to one.

But I have always thought that too much information before engaging with a work to be dictating or pre-empting the viewer response.


This bore out again this week on re-seeing Douglas Gordon’s film  about Zinadine Zidane.

Zinadine Zidane

A 21st Century Portrait.

image courtesy

The one where he filmed the footballer for the full 90 minutes of play between Real Madrid vs Villareal in 2005.


Gordon had 17 cameras trained on Zizou for the whole of game, without dialogue.

Sound was included, absolutely, yes: And if you have not seen it, the resulting engagement was a quite completely absorbing affair because there was no real dialogue just the roar of the crowd the background noise of a commentator when it switched to a screen view of the match, and back to the thud of the ball and the football boot.

In fact I became super aware, while watching, that the lack of commentary or the usual TV engagement with the game made this voyeuristic look with background noise and image, a more basic primal experience. Along with the fact the footballers rarely communicated verbally other than a spoken gesture, made the perceived experience very intuitive; always looking to see where the other players were a constant mental update in real time.

Playing as a team but a lone player also cut off from sound but surrounded by the sound of the crowd.

Zidane also was quoted in type half way through as saying when he was little he used to run up to the TV to get as close as he could to hear and see the match. When he played in the street he always had a running commentary gong in his head; he said when watching on TV it wasn’t what the commentator was saying just the tone of his voice, the noise of the crowd that conjured the whole atmosphere and excitement.

And also while playing on the pitch he could hear what he wanted, he could shut out the big sounds and could hear someone close by cough or move in their chair.

I will leave a link here of the full Google film-video because if you are into artistic film and or even football this is  a very atmospheric piece and can only really be explained by watching it:

Zidane – A 21st century Portrait

And this video although much shorter at 7 minutes includes Zidanes quotes above with the only music in the whole film by Mogwai.


But I recommend the full film as the music plays a different role when you surround it with the other images and sound.

So the viewer making their own mind up while engaging in a piece of work whether moving or not, and interacting on that basis alone?.

Even post analysis is a detractor from one to one engagement whether in a crowd or not. And although analysis is inevitable, is the engagement *pure* really what art is about?.


Brian Clough Statue Nottingham
Brian Clough Statue, Nottingham

Brian Clough of *old big head* fame:

Never one to mince his words or to cow his thoughts summed up this kind of engagement in an interview with John Motson in the 70’s

Motty probably never really recovered!


Brian Clough Statue

The lads very kindly asked if I wanted them to move for the photo – I thought Cloughie probably wouldn’t want that kind of imposition so stay they did!

Brian on post-match pre-match TV analysis

“…..yes John I’m talking about people like you. You, your team, your producer – you’ve never played professional football and yet you come on here week after week and lecture us after a match on how it should be played”

“….yes I used to be on the show as a panellist – as a critic – and far more qualified than you or any of your colleagues”

“Saturday night used to be an enjoyable family night in watching Match of The Day, I’m speaking as a layman – as a guy who pays your wages through his TV fee, he comes home to watch a bit of football, and we’ve got you lot lecturing us, not enough football and too much talk”



Back this Wednesday…..