Tim Laun: Sunday, September 20th, 1992
On View at MMoCA August 11 -- November 11, 2007
MADISON, WI -- The Madison Museum of Contemporary Art announces Tim Laun: Sunday, September 20th, 1992, an exhibition of new works exploring the long and illustrious career of sports figure Brett Favre. The exhibition will be on view in the museum's State Street Gallery from August 11 to November 11, 2007.
Tim Laun is a New York-based artist whose artworks often comment on the nature of sports and the role sports play in our lives. Originally from Wisconsin, Laun has followed the Packers for nearly 30 years. Tim Laun: Sunday, September 20th, 1992 explores the longevity of Favre's career for the Packers, as well as the complicated attachment of his fans.
The exhibition takes its title from a defining moment in the history of the Green Bay Packers. On September 20th, 1992, in a game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Green Bay quarterback Don Majkowski was tackled to the ground and suffered a strained ligament in his ankle. Louisiana-born Brett Favre took over as quarterback. Initially, his novice colors showed through his green and yellow Packers uniform as he fumbled the ball and threw interceptions. Soon, however, Favre was able to take control, leading the Packers to score 24 points and win the game. He has started in every Packers game since. The timing of this exhibition coincides with the 15th anniversary of Sunday, September 20, 1992.
The centerpiece of the exhibition, Don Majkowski: Sunday, September 20th, 1992, is a 36-foot-long work showing the injured Majkowski on the field on that fateful Sunday afternoon. The lone, injured figure on the lush green field signals the end of one era and the beginning of another. Consisting of a grid of multi-colored dots, the Majkowski piece uses billboard-scale and altered digital images to address the aura that attends many sports figures. Like other quarterbacks, Favre plays the leading role in the drama of football; one could say that fans are drawn to Favre as the ancient Greeks were to their gods. He is capable of great things--long, scoring drives, bullet-like passes, and unbelievable comebacks--but he has occasionally been erratic.
Another major work, Model for Cyclorama, consists of 257 diminutive white plaster television sets, each symbolizing a game Favre has played in the NFL (sets will be added as Favre's 16th NFL season progresses). The idea of the cyclorama plays on Laun's Wisconsin roots, harking back to the panorama tradition of the state's German immigrants, but it also highlights the spectacle-nature of football, where one team playing against another is an apt metaphor for war and battle.
The exhibition also includes five lithographs that depict individual players in a game between the Packers and the Tampa Bay Bucaneers in December 2000. The Favre lithograph combines two views of Favre in action, one taken by the artist himself from the stands, and another extracted from what viewers at home might have seen on television. Juxtaposing the homegrown with the nationally packaged, Laun shows that there are multiple ways to see the individual and sports.
Laun says his role in creating Tim Laun: September 20th, 1992 was akin to a curator's, honing and packaging Favre's career for the thinking fan, and using the language of art to comment on the phenomenon of Favre's career and popularity. Using scale, seriality, and juxtaposition, Laun asks the viewer to consider new questions about how we experience, perceive, and adore sports--to be at once believers and critics.
Tim Laun will discuss his work in a conversation with MMoCA's curator of exhibitions, Jane Simon, and director, Stephen Fleischman, on September 20 in the museum's lecture hall; the event will begin at 6:30 pm.
Generous funding for Tim Laun: Sunday, September 20th, 1992 has been provided by J.H. Findorff & Son; Hausmann-Johnson Insurance, Inc.; Associated Bank; Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren S.C.; H&M Distributing/Miller Brewing Company; the Madison Concourse Hotel and Governor's Club; the Dane County Cultural Affairs Commission with additional funds from the Endres Mfg. Company Foundation and the Overture Foundation; a grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin; and the Art League of the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. Artworks in the exhibition are not sponsored by or affiliated in any way with the National Football League or the Green Bay Packers.
Hours at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art are Tuesday–Wednesday (11 am–5 pm); Thursday-Friday (11 am–8 pm); Saturday (10 am–8 pm); and Sunday (noon–5 pm). The museum is closed on Mondays.
Admission to exhibitions at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art is free of charge. MMoCA is supported through memberships and through generous contributions and grants from individuals, corporations, agencies, and foundations. Important support is also generated through auxiliary group programs; special events; rental of the museum's lobby, lecture hall, and rooftop garden; and sales through the Museum Store.
# # #
A Conversation with Tim Laun
Jane Simon (MMoCA Curator of Exhibitions): On the website about the Favre Era Cyclorama,www.favreera.net, there is a picture of you as a young child at the Packers training camp. Could you explain your own relationship to the Packers and how it has changed or evolved over time? I am, for example, wondering if there was a time when you weren't a fan, where you were maybe angry with the team?
Tim Laun: I can't imagine any Packers fans who weren't angry at times during the past couple of seasons. Think about all of the time we invest in watching games, drinking beer, and checking the Internet for the latest news. In that sense, there can be a significant amount of disappointment if they don't win. Having said that, I can't imagine not being a fanit's just that it's probably more normal to lose than win. That's why we celebrate and it feels good when the Packers actually do winsomething special has occurred.
I think that since I moved away from Wisconsin eleven years ago, I've developed a critical distance from certain things, and perhaps this is what lead me to make work about the Packers. However, when I see the picture of me at training camp as a young kid it quickly reminds me how deeply rooted all of this is in my cultural and personal background.
Simon: Time and the perception of time seem to play important roles in the conception of your works. Could you discuss not only how this plays out with the works about Brett Favre, but also some art historical references that might have influenced you to make this work? For example, I often think about the time-based work of On Kawara, who used painting and formal techniques to show time and events. Or, even the work of Tehching Hsieh and Eleanor Antin, who used visual documentation to create a record of personal change and political subversion.
Laun: These are interesting questions. The subject of time is fascinating whether you're talking about religion, cosmology, art, or sports. And looking back, I guess the subject of time, or the act of marking time, is a common thread in my work. I hadn't necessarily thought of the artists you mentioned; however, I think a piece like Spiral Jetty by Robert Smithson is a useful example, in that the completion of that artwork was outside the artist's control. After Smithson created Spiral Jetty it immediately began to erode and has mostly been preserved through documentation and cultural memory. The temporal nature of sporting events can be fleeting and seem meaningless, and also fade away. So, what I want to do is give form to something that I was otherwise inherently ephemeralthe streak or arc of an athletic achievement.
Simon: In Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer: : A Journey Through the Heart of Fan Mania, theNew York Times writer Warren St. John explores the absolute ultimate in fan dedication by following the Alabama football team in a beat-up RV. We have discussed his perspective and his journey several times. Did you ever feel like your dedication to the Packers or your urge to build these works reached the same level of craziness?
Laun: I can't deny that I have something in common with the Alabama fans whose lives revolve around following the Crimson Tide. Most Packers fans I know, myself included, watch every game, and in many cases we shape our lives around the Packers schedule. On the other hand, I never believed my art work was a direct expression of being a fan (my friends and family might disagree with this!). You draw an interesting comparison to Warren's journey, and perhaps all of this is my way of understanding the human side of growing up in Wisconsin and being a Packers fan.
Simon: Could you explain the relationship of the Cyclorama idea to the other works in the exhibition?
Laun: I love the idea of old historic cycloramas and panoramasgiant 360-degree landscapes of foreign cities and famous battle scenes which completely surround an audience. There's something mythic about them since most of them don't exist anymore. The cyclorama became an interesting reference and metaphor for my proposal to build a circular installation of televisions documenting the Favre era. I spent a couple of days at the Atlanta Cyclorama, a classic nineteen19th-century Civil War panorama painted in Milwaukee by German artists lead by William Wehner in Milwaukee. It's supposedly the largest painting in the world, and its scale totally blows you away.
The earliest works in the exhibition are lithographs made simply by collaging an image I filmed captured live at a Packers game with an image of the same moment broadcast live on television. That simple juxtaposition was interesting and, in a way, served as a natural precursor to theCyclorama project. Sometimes an interesting symmetry would occur because the network broadcast would be filmed from the opposite side of the stadium, resulting in a mirrored composition and thus alluding to a kind of spherical perspective. Also, this reminds me of when I was a kid, coming home from a game and watching highlights, which were usually shot from the opposite vantage point. I was aware of that differenceplays I remembered moving from left to right were now being shown right to left on television. I thought that was cool.
I was thinking about the scale of the Atlanta Cyclorama when I was developing the Majkowski piece, so I wanted to make that work as big as I possibly could in order to fill the viewer's field of vision. Also, I feel that on the most basic level, the image of Majkowski lying injured on the fieldsort of like Manet's Dead Toreadormarks the beginning of the cycle of Favre's career, which is echoed in Model for Cyclorama.
Simon: In my own writing about the exhibition and the works, I have used metaphors of war and battle, and I have discussed the similarities between the personalities and mythologies of the Greek gods to Favre and Favre's persona. Could you talk about the idea of the fallen warrior and some of the premonitions you have about this now that we can be sure Favre's career will end after this season?
Laun: We can't be sure his career will end after this season, and the fan in me hopes he'll play beyond this year. I like your analogy to Myths and Greek Gods. I think Favre represents a kind of mythical idea of perpetual hope, related not only to sports but also to life. He's a single individual surrounded by adverse conditions, and despite injuries, personal problems, aging, etc., he gives us hope. This makes me think of a game against Pittsburgh in 1994 or 1995. Favre was injured badly towards the end of the game and was coughing up blood. The network broadcast cut to commercial, and I remember everybody thinking he was done for the season, and that he couldn't possibly play through the injury. Of course, when the game returned Favre was back on the field and he threw a touchdown pass on the very next play, and the Packers went on to win the game. It was unbelievable.
In some ways the Majkowski piece, the "fallen warrior," reminds us that Favre's career will eventually come to an end. I know there's a collective feeling of anxiety among fans about this.
We can't be sure his career will end after this season, and the fan in me hopes he'll play beyond this year. In some ways the Majkowski piece reminds us that Favre's career will eventually come to its conclusion, and I know there's a collective feeling of anxiety among fans about this.
Simon: And, what about Favre in relationship to other great quarterbacks, such as John Elway, Dan Marino, or Joe Namuth?
Laun: Well clearly, these quarterbacks are inferior to Brett Favre.
# # #