See You On A Dark Night: Encountering The Other Spectator
*This is a piece I wrote for my Sports Spectacle class—a class where we analyze the spectacles within the sporting world and find a way to talk about sports analytically*
When reflecting on our discussion of the artist’s control in Jennifer Locke’s “Match” (2005), I was reminded of another artistic endeavor that explores the relationship between the sports spectacle and the female artist. Grimes is the music project of Canadian artist Claire Boucher, whose album Visions (2012) has received widespread acclaim this year.
The video for “Oblivion” is a fascinating piece that explores the other’s invasion in the system of the sports world. Boucher, director Emily Kai Bock, and cinematographer Evan Prosofsky literally invaded two public sporting events and created a music video within these sports spectacles. Besides Boucher’s charismatic performance, it is interesting to observe the looks she gets as she draws attention away from the event and places it upon herself. Rightly so, most of Boucher’s spectators seem very confused. In an interview with Pitchfork Media, Boucher describes her video as a “voyeuristic look into a really violent community” where she attempts to assert “this abstract female power in these male-dominated arenas.” She claims the video is “somewhat about objectifying men. Not in a disrespectful way, though.”
When watching the video, I am forced to question how successful Boucher is in her attempt. The scenes in the locker room and the riot are clearly staged, but what does Boucher accomplish during the truly voyeuristic moments where the invaded arena turns away from the sport and focuses on her performance? Since Boucher wanted to invade male-dominated spaces, she certainly draws the male gaze upon herself through her unusual presence. However, rather than the terms and ideas explored in Nicholas Mirzoeff and Laura Mulvey’s work, I identified Boucher as the “narrative other” described in Perinbanayagam’s “Games and Sport In Everyday Life.” This may be a stretch, but what if we observe a dialogue between Boucher and the entire arena (including the game), where Boucher is an “agent” who is “participating in an eplotment of his or her self just as he or she may be following an already constituted plot of game” (Perinbanayagam 34). In these terms, Boucher creates a myth where she places herself against a “constituted plot” or system, and becomes an agent that combats against an opponent. In this case, the opponents are the surrounding spectators. She becomes the other, the antagonist, the threat to the sporting world. And as she told Pitchfork, some sports goers were “super into” them while others “were really angry.”
Perinbanayagam is describing the protagonist-antagonist relationship in regards to actual games, but what does it mean for there to be an other or outsider amongst sports spectators? I sometimes feel this way in class when the discussion is centralized around very specific sporting events, and I think other non-sports fans might feel the same way. In regards to Boucher being an outsider, it is interesting to consider the fact that no one else in the video looks like her. She already has a distinct look, but this appearance seems stranger in regards to the setting. The only person who comes close to Boucher’s strangeness is the streaker she includes; and that relationship is only built on the premise of an idea. What I think is important to consider is the fact that people like Boucher, the streaker, and non-sports fans like myself are nonetheless spectators of the events. We may not fully understand the dynamics of the game, but we remain spectators—other spectators—among the rest. To what extent can we identify with the crowd?
Lyrically, the song seems to be about overcoming the threat of a predator. The lyrics describe the fear of walking in the dark, the possibility of another individual harming you, and the ability to overcome those fears. I am sure invading two public sporting events was intimidating, and maybe it was actually scary. But when Boucher stands in front of the moshing boys, chewing gum, and singing, “See you on a dark night,” I think she feels pretty powerful.