Cultural Field is a new artist film developed by Rosa-Johan Uddoh, directed and produced by Louis Brown and Jos Bitelli (East London Cable) and performed by 12 female, non-binary and trans footballers, activists and performers. It is Uddoh’s most ambitious film project to date, made with over 30 collaborators, including headwear designer Leo Carlton, graphic designer Rachel Sale, director of photography Lou MacNamara, with sound by Joe Namy and Toby Burroughs, animation by Bitelli and edited by Brown. The premiere of Cultural Field in partnership with Turf Projects is presented alongside a public programme and new commissioned Fungus Press billboards by Uddoh, that extend the film’s exploration of public and private space – of Turf – in local green spaces.
Referencing the format of a ‘Match of the Day’ TV broadcast, Cultural Field records the meeting of fictional 5 a-side football teams ANTI-CAPITALIST UTD and CAPITALIST CITY on the Hackney Marshes, one of the largest areas of common land in Greater London. Competing for the Cultural Field Cup, players improvise in-role as characters including TENANT, COLONIALIST and other prominent figures in a power struggle for land in the UK. The film moves between live-action gameplay and in-studio punditry by Comedian Sapphire McIntosh (as COMMENTATOR) and Rosa-Johan Uddoh (as CRITIC), who provide economic analysis inspired by Rosa Luxemberg, drawing upon histories such as the Football Association’s 1921 ban of women from playing on their grounds and protest football matches during the 18th Century enclosure of English common land.
Initiated as a culmination of Uddoh’s Liverpool Biennial & John Moores University Fellowship (2018-19), during which she researched sport as a type of artistic performance, and a rare field in which Black performers are prominently represented, Cultural Field builds upon Uddoh’s ongoing artistic research into representations of Black people in the British media. Playing a football ‘critic’ in Cultural Field, Uddoh reimagines the potential of one of the BBC’s longest running programmes, focusing on the relationship between media representation and structural access to space.
With the poster series launching during the UEFA Women’s EURO 2022 competition, Cultural Field engages debates about institutionalised sexism in sport. One of the fastest growing sports worldwide, and a new locus for investment, the BBC and Sky have made landmark commitments to broadcast Women’s matches on their flagship channels since 2021. This media boost brings the structurally inferior provision of facilities for women at the grassroots and in the professional game, and hard-wired assumptions about sex and gender differences that play out on sports fields, into the public discourse.
Wearing strips made from sack-cloth and suiting, and hats made out of cropped turf and plastic grasses, the play-off between ANTI-CAPITALIST UTD and CAPITALIST CITY foregrounds a turf war. Addressing the pitch as land, and land as it intersects with identity, Uddoh and her team of collaborators bring a wider political and cultural context of the rites to the pitch to bear on live discussions about the UK’s shrinking public space and urban gentrification. Their pitch is land, a lucrative asset, the rights to which can be disputed; a container for regimes that seek to reinforce differences that might be gender-based, racialised or economic, and a frame for contesting normative values and performing other possibilities.
Commissioned by independent curator Jessie Krish. Curated by Jessie Krish in partnership with Turf Projects.
Generously supported by Arts Council England, Central Saint Martins, and Liverpool John Moores University.