On Wednesday night, I attended the opening performance for Hard Targets—Shaun El C. Leonardo’s Bull in the Ring (which he discussed here earlier this week). I have mixed feelings about football—the brutality bothers me but the sportsmanship has, and I do not exaggerate, brought me to tears (what can I say? Seeing offensive linemen sacrificing their bodies for the greater good really struck me).
The performance did little to soothe, or sway, me. Leonardo may have drawn chalk lines onto the grass at LACMA, but the fact that this was not a football field was abundantly clear. When removed from the context of an actual practice or game, the brutality—the absurdity—was all the more striking. On the other hand, each time he got back up after being knocked down, I couldn’t help but think “that guy has heart.” I’m not sure what Leonardo intended for me to feel, but quite frankly, I’m just as confused as ever. And football season has only just begun.
And just one more quick note to add now that I’ve seen the clip—the thing that actually made me the most uncomfortable was hearing the applause. Although I was clapping right along with everyone else, in retrospect, I’m not sure what or who I was clapping for. Was it Leonardo’s willingness to put himself through physical trauma for art, the football players for exposing themselves to the judgment of onlookers, or the sheer brutality of it all?