ALYTUS PSYCHIC STRIKE BIENNIAL: DIFFERENT 3SF FORMS
- Written by Mark Dyson
The theme to this years exploration of 3sf at the biennale is Superposition/Superimposition. It is a very appropriate way of looking at three sided football for it requires us to look at 3sf not only as a game played by kicking a ball around a field – or a forest if you live in Lithuania – but as a game within the context of culture.
Three sided football has now been with us for 50 years – of which it is only the last 20 that have witnessed its experimental realisation. In true cybernetic fashion, the more it has been explored, the more the feedback from each game has allowed its arena of operation to expand.
Most of you probably know that three sided football was developed by Asger Jorn in 1962 - ostensibly as a metaphor for explaining how his theory of triolectics could be understood in a real world situation. In reality - three sided football was actually a deceptively simple way of conveying the complexities of his entire life’s work. My presentation at the conference on three sided football at least years World Cup in Silkeborg examined in detail the means by which 3sf managed to encapsulate Jorns thought - and I don’t propose to repeat it right now – but if anyone is interested I have it with me and would be delighted to present this again later in the biennale.
When it was picked up Fabian Tompsett in 1994 and the first game was actually PLAYED, three sided football was seen simply as a means of vitalising tedious debates on Anarchism into dynamic lived experiences. Today Three sided football is being played on an increasing basis around the world – with new and exiting possibilities for its understanding emerging at a startling rate.
So what I want to do today is to look at how three sided football operates as a multi layered transformative cultural morphology – shape shifting like a viscous flow through every arena into which it has been introduced. Like a hydra – three sided football has started growing exponentially with every iteration – each of which superimposes itself onto the original conception, enriching, complexifying, and diversifying. With the sum of every part being greater than the whole – the expansion and diversification of three sided football is starting to be understood as the means of its true expression.
So let us take a look at the various ways of understaning three sided that I know about – and after I have finished maybe you can help expand this collection with your own.
1. testing out asger jorns hypotheis –
was it correct. Would playing 3sf be defensive and boring but ultimately lead to an explosion. Would the onset of the explosion result in a few hightened moments of spontaneous exaltation. From wnla in the 90’s onwards there has been a history in the UK of putting into practise the various therories of the SI – as so little in the documantation about them shows what happens. Jorns theory of triolectics is a notable example. Did Jorn mean this to be LIVED – was it really a set of suggestions for behaviour or an analysis of societal cureents.
2. Constructed situation
Because of the nature of this event – I probably don’t have to say too much about the Situationist project. But for those who are unfamiliar with SI ideas – here is very short intro. Essential to situationist theory is the concept of the spectacle, a unified critique of advanced capitalism of which a primary concern is the progressively increasing tendency towards the expression and mediation of social relations through objects.Situationists believe that the shift from individual expression through directly lived experiences, or the first-hand fulfillment of authentic desires, to individual expression by proxy through the exchange or consumption of commodities, or passive second-hand alienation, inflicts significant and far-reaching damage to the quality of human life for both individuals and society.A central concept of situationist theory is how this objectified alienation can be counteracted – and the principal means imagined is via the construction of situations, moments of life deliberately constructed for the purpose of reawakening and pursuing authentic desires, experiencing the feeling of life and adventure, and the liberation of everyday life.
For many players who approach 3sf through the filter of the SI a common reason is a belief that participation in the game involves the realisation of the Constructed Situataion - whether this be the localised play of the one off game – or in the production of a larger body of “work’ which then constitutes a more involved and complex evolution of the Constructed Situation. Like those who see 3sf as a testing of Jorns theory of triolectics - those focused more on the constructed situation also see their activities as a lived development of situationist praxis.
3 SI Bluff
remaining within the realm of those whos involvement is predicated on a background in situationist ideas, another reason for proselystising 3sf is that of the bluff – an idea long heald to be at the heart of many SI strategies. Indeed, the use of bluffing has been a mainstay of much of the Psychogeography practised in the UK in the 1990’s and is still a common theme amongst contemporary practitioners. Jorns initial suggestion of three sided football dates back to 1962, a period when he left the SI and affiliated himself with the College Pataphisique – an organisation in which bluffing was elevated to a ritual art form. The director of the Jorn Museum – Jacob Theige is himself convinced that Jorn proposed 3sf as a means of poking fun – and bluffing with – both Niels Bohr (whom Jorn felt took complementarity far too seriously) and Guy Debord – who had a noted aversion to ALL organised sports – and whom Jorn was becoming increasingly querulous with. The bluff theorists love to present 3sf as something much larger than ‘just kicking a ball around a different shaped field” .But as with all thing BLUFF – one is never able to take their claims at face value – . This could be a double bluff (or even a triple bluff, given that it is three sided football after all) and the supposed pretece may be a deliberate way of attempting to mask a very serious alternate set of motivations for playing 3sf.
I want to change direction somewhat now and move away from the situationsit inspired versions of 3sf. Local to Deptford, where the Luther Blisset 3 sided football league currently has its home, there is alarge population of artists. Indeed it has been suggested that there are more people per square metre calling themselves artists in Deptford than anywhere else in the world.
In 2012, the local arts festival Deptford X, decided to roganise their fstival that year around the subject of the interaction between sport and art (it was the year that London hosted the 2102 Olympics). Many of the players in the league we play I joined up to play on the basis of wanting to expore how art and football could be combined.
For these players. 3sf is a means of injected an artistic sensibility into the last of the cultural areas that has escaped the injection of conceptual art into its body. In the 20th centuray painting, scupture, music, poetry, politics, architecrue all experienced a the provocations of artist influence. The last cultural area which has not yet felt this is sport. For the players who come to 3sf from this background there is an urgent desire to investigate how the rigorous rules and traditions of organised phyisical gaming can be undermained and elevated at the same time through the injection of the creative impulse.
5. ART JUNKIES
volumateric increase in the space that we perceive to be inside ourselves – the space that constitutes the self. Ecstatic joy or fullfillment is gernerated by the reverberation of the walls of this container – almost like a drum beat of the soul. You know it when it happens because the skin immediately tightens, goose bumps pop out and the seratonin dopamine rush practically launches you into orbit. Not unlike an extreme sport junkie getting their adrenaline rush – the experimental participation in live art (3sf) is seeking the constructed moments that rriogger the situational WOW
ever since wnla proposed – and almost pulled off – a game of three sided football in Belgrade in 1995 to protest the irrationality of the Milosevic goverments descructive nationalistic policies in former yugoslavia (in which the Red Star Belgrade B team would play against Radio Station B92 and acombined Rest of the World), 3sf has had adherents who see it as a means of political protest. Instead of marching, shouting or confronting with violence, these adherents suggest playing 3sf in the space of contestaion to heighlight their opposition to re[ressive establishment dictates.
The most recent example of this type of three sided football was a game played in Taksim Square during the Istanbul Biennale as part of the protests in Turkey in 2013 regarding the gradual islamification of secular society – an oppostion orgnised in large part by artists, writers and musiians. (Explain the game)
7. Historical re-anactment
There is a growing body of supporters and players who imagine three sided football as the reenactment of ancient religious rites and festival. Research in the Uk centrered on Songhenge and the Yucaten ppensinsula in Mexico suggests that Neolithic peoples played elaborate ball games as part of festivities celebrating armed combat against opposing tribes – either before the battle began (in a similar fashion to the haka of the New Zealand Rugby team) or as a victory celebration – even using the severed heads of their enemies as the ball.
The triadic – or circular - organisation of the ball courts suggests that the games were not played between two opposing sides, but instead united the three elements of the population, the warriors, the priests and representatives of the general population.
The advocates of this ‘history’ of three sided football assert that in playing the game, they are involved in a direct reconnection with our forebears, allowing a resonation with their ancestors very different understanding of the land and its place within the cosmos.
8. Repopularisation of football as a social, communal activity.
For many of the players in the Deptford league (Philosphy Football FC in particular), 3sf is played, understood and directed towards returning football to its popular working class origins as a non hierarchical social space. The critique inherent in this view of 3sf is that contemporary football has become an alienated spectacle of Non intervention – in which ‘fans’ are transformed into consumers who expend large sums on passively watching games either in the stadia or in front of TV while consuming alcohol (rather than getting fit and enjoying the phyisical exhertion of the sport).
The refusal of 3sf - as it is played today - to invlve itself in any form of commercial exchange, its deliberate fostering of collaborative non violent types of play and its celebration of everyman - participation being open to all irrespective of age, gender or skill – reinforces the socialist underpinning of this interpretation of the game.
9. GAME THEORY
When Jorn originally proposed 3sf, (in his book Naturens Orden in 1962) he did so within the context of putting it forward as part of Game Theory - speculating on what might happen to the dynamic of the then Cold War dualistic impasse between the USSR and the USA. What might happen if a third element – another power – was introduced into this dialectical confrontation. He speculated that the result would entail a leavening of the tension – a reduction in its heat – generated by the triadic stability which occurs in occilating dualities in trilectic tension. Game theorists see each playing of a game of 3sf as a modelling of the potentiality such a triadic structure could entail – and look to expand on its variants to gain ever more information about the dynamic and how it might play itself out.
The game theorists also poioint out that such stragtic manoeuvres played a large – if as yet unreported - part in situationist practise. Dedord’s Game of War was proposed as a means of playing out the potential outcomes of non violent assymietic contestation – to train its protagonists before their launch into the real world. This abstratction of revolt into a represntation was also evident in the Destruction of RSG6 - in which the Si sought to shne a light into the gaming exercises being conducted by the NATO powers duting the 1960’s.
It is indeed the case that if the ludic is to be used a weapon against serious culture, its protagonists would indeed benefit from regular exposure to the effects of triloectical manoeuvre before – and during – any offensive operation.
10. FOOTBALL TRAINING
It is not too surprising that three sided football also plays a part in what would be described as conventional football. It transpires that playing with three teams rather than two has been a part of introducing primary age schoolchildren to football for some time, and my research into 3sf has uncovered numerous anecdotal examples. While I have not come across anyone who actually remembers being directly invovevd, there is presently a large league in Bogota in Columbia run by Fabio Aloya for teenage schoolboys aged 14 to 17 which uses three sided football to develop lateral tactical skills for use in the two sided game. The adherent of this type of 3sf seem to struggle with the greater concept of three sided football about which we are discussing right now – but despite their reluctance to be involved in the wider tradition, they are nevertheless an intrinsic part of the greater game being played whether they wish to be or not.
11. CRITIQUE OF ANARCHISM
The first game of three sided football that we know to have been played took place in Glasow, Scotland in January 1994 during the Anarchist Winterschool. (and for what it is worth I was fortunate to have been accidentally in the right place at the right time and took part in this highly disorganised event). The idea for playing the game came from Fabian Tompsett, then of London Psychogeographical Association. Fabian had come across 3sf while researching Asger Jorn and he felt it would provide an excellent opportunity to critique the non action of so many participants at Anarchist conferences he had attended in the previous years. As it turned out, the Glasgow winterschool was far from the ordinary Anarchist Conference. It had actually been organised by the students society of Glasgow School of Architecture – as an attempt to recreate the Strasbourg Students society’s spending of their whole years grant on the publication of On the Poverty of Student Life – the text which did so much to launch the student revolts of 1968 in France and beyond.
The success of the playing of the game at the conference – and the overall focus of the winterschool itself on actually Doing – rather than Contemplating and arguing – led fabian to repeat the exercise. And so from the mid 1990’s 3sf was proposed at numerous UK anarchist bookfairs and gatherings with the explicit aim of trying to generate ideas through action rather than debate.
12. UNITARY URBANISM
among the many attendees of the winterschool in 1994 was wnla – the workshop for non linear architecure. Wnla were a group of artists, architects and pyschogeographers, based in glasgow, attempting to put into practise the situatinist idea of unitary Urbanism. I was part of wnla at the time and after our particiaptaion in faboans game we wanted to incorporate 3sf into our experimental activity.
Unitary Urbaanism was an explicit critique (in the 1950’s) of the functionlist idea of urban planning that was then all the rage – the separation of activities in the city into different separated zones. We know now how diasterously wrong this policy was – but in the 1950’s there were few lone voices expressing outrage at the imbecility of the idea. The Si idea of Unitary Urbanism was the complete opposite – the fusion of all aspects of life into a single overarching gesamtkunstwerk – a unifaction of life – its technical, material, emotional, poetic and spiritual aspects into a in separable whole. For wnla, 3sf was a tool which would allow art, sport, science, mathematics, gameing to be incorporated as one as part of a refual to live a life within the confines of the separated world on offer – of sleep eat work and play –all subdivided an d allocated their respective place and rules. In complimentary juxtaposition to the Debords injunction to “never Work”, wnla posited the injunction ‘Always Play”. Three sided football became an invaluable tool in making this happen.
13. ASTRAL TRAINING
Staying within the 1990’s UK revival and reinterpretation of psychogeography, another group inspired by Fabians Launching of thr game was the Autonomus Association of Astronauts. The AAA was a worldwide network of community-based groups dedicated to building their own spaceships. The AAA was founded 23 April 1995. Although many of their activities were reported as serious participation in conferences or protests against the militarization of space, some were also considered art pranks, media pranks, or elaborate spoof. The AAA had numerous local chapters which operated independently of one another, with the AAA effectively operating as a collective pseudonym along the lines of Luther Blissett (nom de plume).
For AAA, 3sf was to become one of their means for training for a life in outer space (are we not in outer space right now?). My own discussions with ex members of the group suggest that the use of 3sf as astral training was as much a way of holding up a mirror to a society of imbecilic wastefulness and irrationality which saw itself as the embodiement of progress and rationality. 3sf was used as a tool to parody this contradiction – to develop a reservible connecting factor which might – if properly analysed – allow their adherents of the society of the spectacle to gain insight into the precarious and accidentual lunacy of the socity they held so dear.
14. QUANTUM DYNAMICS
On of the most unusual – and to my mind most unexpected – variations of three sided football has been its adoption by those seeking to link the forces of the quantum world (the sub atomic interactions which lay the foundations for energy and matter) with the forces experienced on a human scale. The ability of particle accelerators to open up the dynamics of these sub atomic forces has not only begun to prove the standard models of particle physics, but reveal the nature by which this model holds itself together.
The similarities between the force interactions which have been discovered at the heart of the atomic world and those which govern the dynamic of choice that regulates the act of playing three sided football are as astonishing as they are uncanny.
Initial interest was stimulated by the role played in choosing which teams goal to attack with that of superposition – the hesitating uncertainty between force charge (negative or positive) possessed by the electron. The actual value of this charge is only KNOWN through its observation (and hence measurement), in the same way that the actual value of the alliance within the triolectic of three sided play (which of the two possible opposing teams have I now allied with) is revealed by the direction and velocity of the strike on the ball – AFTER it has been made.
More recent studies have begun to reveal that this representative association is substantially strengthened by the dynamic within not only the electron (charge superposition) – but the neutron and proton as well.
Quantum Chromodynamics –the theory of the fundamental force describing the interactions between quarks and gluons which make up hadrons such as the proton, neutron and pion – demonstrates itself as inherently triolectical. The three quarks which inhabit a hadron are in a constant tension of bonding – each quark desires implicity to ally itself with one of the other two – but as soon as two quarks bond there is a symmetrical instability in the system and it begins the process of splitting itelf into a a quark and an anti quark. To prevent this instability to going critical, the bonded pair then splits and one joins the lone quark – halting the completion of its separation. The newly lone quark now begins the same process. This subdivision and reformation occurs billions of time each second and describes on a perfect level the dynamic at the heart of not only three sided football but the nature of all triadic systems.
What remains unclear – and what the adherents of this type of three sided football wish to explore further – is what drives the choice between the bonded pair as to who departs the coupling to join with the lone quark – and who now goes it alone?
15. KABALLAH A Kabbalistic practise of enlightenment
As my companion from Strategic Optimism Football Club - Chris Collier - will explain in greater detail this morning, Three sided football is now being borrowed by practitioners of Kaballah and used as a method to aid understanding of Kaballistic concepts and thereby assist in attaining spiritual realisation.
The Kabbalah is a set of esoteric teachings meant to explain the relationship between an unchanging, eternal, and mysterious infinity - and the mortal and finite universe - which is thought of as God's creation. Kabbalah seeks to reconcile the nature of this universe and the human being, with the nature and purpose of existence.
For the footballing kaballists, it the heavy weight given to numerology and mathematical symbolism within its esoteric teachings that seems to have tied the knot.
I don’t wish to preempt Chris’s presentation but very briefly, in the Kaballah – Gods creation is represented diagrammatically as the 6 directional, 6 faceted cube of space. The transformation of this four dimensional model into a three dimensional stasis not only reforms the cube into a hexagon but it liberates the dimension of time (the dynamic) from the representation – allowing the lived, the experienced, to superimposed upon the surface of the hexagon and played out under the guiding hand of the six directions of meaningful existence.
The nature of the choice imposed upon the player within a game of three sided football is representation of the choices which are offered to the adherent of the kaballah. The playing of the game is seen as an equivalent to the practise of yoga or meditation within Hindu or Buddhist teachings.
16. THE INVISIBLE INSURRECTION (an assault on serious culture)
At the beginning of this exploration of the different possible typologies or understandings of three sided football I focused on the direct origins of the game – its emergence from within Asger Jorns participation in – and significant contribution to – what might best be called the Situationist Project.
In this penultimate variety – I am going to return again to the SI.
In my description of how three sided football acts for some as a critique of objectified alienation through the construction of situations – there is implicit within the idea a rejection of a society in which this activity is necessary. While involvement in situationst activity is for some a localised personal exploration of individual choice and freedom – others do so from a revolutionary perspective – believing that genuine liberation from the Society of the Spectacle can only occur as a consequence of its supercession.
There has been an argument at the heart of the SI for some time as to whether this supercession of the Spectacle should occur in a traditionally revolutionary manner – through direct contestation – or whether this means of confrontation is now outdated – and that alternative means should be explored
There are a number of participants within three sided football who believe that the game contains within itself the seeds of this alternative contestation. At the heart of this belief is the suggestion put forward by the Situationst Alex Trocchi that situationst ideas can only progress via an invisible insurrection. That revolt – as soon as it defines itself as such – provokes the measures for its containment. The prudent, he explained, will avoid such definition, for not only will it sign a death sentence on their hopes – it will limit their aspiration.
For the insurrectionists, the concern lies not with a coup d’etat – but a coup du monde. History will not overthrow national governments, nor the systems which grant them power – it will outflank them. What is to be seized has no physical dimension nor relevant colour. It is not an arsenal or a capital city.
The means of opposition is the ludic itself. The contrary of reason and logic – the playful explosive joy of the playing of the game. Three sided football is seen by the insurrectionists as a unifying envelopment of the shape shifting transformative magic which the ludic can unleash. Surrounded on all sides by its antidote, the terminal virus of spectacular capitalism will have found its match.
17. While registering all the possible practises of three sided football that I have described in this presentation, a collection which is no doubt going to swell in number as three sided football gains greater traction in the world, it is also vital we do not forget a much more prosaic interpretation – that three sided football is a Sunday afternoon pastime in which adult males get to come together and kick a ball around a field.