The work of the British artist Jo Longhurst makes visible new perspectives on the quest for perfection. Working through active collaboration with her subjects,she depicts the passion and determinaton, as well as the challenges and difficulties facing those who cultivate it. For the Canada Summer Games, being presented this year by the City of Sherbrooke, Sporoble wanted to draw a parallel between two fields of activity with equally deep roots in culture: art and sport.

The video installation Present, the subject of an exhibition at Sporobole, is the most recent incarnation of Longhurst’s project Other Spaces. This vast enterprise explores the rigors of training and competition to which elite gymnasts subject themselves, and the physical and emotional states they experience along the way. Elite athletes are well aware: the aesthetic of their performance is calculated not only by degree of commitment, and technical ability, but also by how immaculate they perform on a particular stage at a particular time. Longhurst draws on diverse historical influences, creating artworks as a response to her immersion in the regime of today’s elite gymnast.Other Spaces includes photographs of athletes in full flight taken by the artist; appropriated photographs from diverse sources grouped together in installations; hybrid sculptural works inspired by Plato’s perfect solids and by the Constructivism of Popova and Rodchenko; and, finally, performance and video elements, including the video installation Present. Created in collaboration with the Art Gallery of Ontario during an artist’s residency, this pared-down installation shows side-by-side, simultaneously, five elite gymnasts. The work seeks to convey the intensity of the moment before a performance, when the gymnast, at the height of her concentration, salutes the members of the jury evaluating her. As the gymnasts prepare for action, their disciplined minds and bodies are presented to camera, revealing moments of slippage between private introspection and public display. The repetition of the same motif within the image highlights the singularity of the work’s protagonists. The installation’s loops and stutters in continually changing combinations evoke both the anticipation of competitive action, and the arduous training regime of the gymnast.

Present was made in collaboration with Gemini Gymnastics Club, Oshawa.

Photo credit : Jocelyn Riendeau