Zidane: More than a Soccer Video

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Douglas Gordon and Philippe Parreno, Zidane, a 21st Century Portrait (2006), 2 channel digital video installation, 90:00 minutes, installation dimensions variable. NGC

It is an experience that will make you feel like you are running with the gods on Mount Olympus, and leave you questioning the Cult of Celebrity.

Zidane, a 21st Century Portrait (2006) is a compelling video shot when French soccer superstar Zinedine Zidane was at the height of his sports career.

“The installation, and what you feel when you’re in it, goes way beyond soccer,” says Dr. Benedict Leca at the Art Gallery of Hamilton, where the video is currently on loan from the National Gallery of Canada. “It’s exhilarating. It takes you to the middle of the experience, so that you feel like you are literally running around on the field with Zidane.” The 90-minute video was produced by internationally renowned artists Douglas Gordon and Philippe Parreno, and explores our fascination with pop stars and modern-day sports heroes.

Gordon and Parreno positioned seventeen cameras throughout Madrid’s Santiago Bernabéu Stadium during a championship soccer match between Real Madrid and Villarreal in 2005. Each camera operator was directed to remain fixed on Zidane—then-captain of the French team—through the entire match, resulting in a slickly edited video that is juxtaposed with raw game footage projected on an adjacent screen. The soundtrack captures the roar of 80,000 screaming fans, Spanish television commentary, and original music by the Scottish band Mogwaï, for an experience Leca describes as “immersive, transporting and dramatic.”

One of the highlights of this piece comes when audiences hear Zidane himself talk about soccer. In a voiceover, Zidane describes how he grew up with the game, as well as the impact of playing in front of thousands of fans.

The edited video is comprised of 17 different camera angles. In each of the 17 versions of this work, the raw footage projected on the adjacent screen comes from one of these 17 angles. The National Gallery’s version features raw footage that focuses largely on Zidane’s face; other versions may track his foot movements, or take panning shots of the pitch throughout the match.

“The entire room is pitch-black except for these non-stop videos,” he says. “One screen goes black, then another one lights up and Zidane is yelling, then the crowd erupts and the line judge is whistling. It’s overwhelming and powerful. These soccer players are like today’s gladiators. It’s high-drama. The installation itself is very dramatic. It really grabs you.”

The experience is literally heightened, with Zidane’s every move magnified and projected larger than life on the various screens. The cameras train an intense, unwavering gaze on Zidane, giving viewers insight into the people we turn into heroes, and “their complexities, their greatness and their human foibles,” as Leca says.

“This whole presentation makes you feel at one with Zidane,” adds Leca. “It’s one thing to feel an affinity with him as a French citizen yourself, as a French person of Algerian descent, as a soccer-lover, or as a fan of an iconic sports star. It really hits home, however, when you’re in the middle of the room, right there with him. You feel an affinity on a whole different level. It’s a physical level, as opposed to an intellectual level.”


Zidane, a 21st Century Portrait will be presented at the Art Gallery of Hamilton until April 28, 2013.


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