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Art of Football: World Cup 2018 through the eyes of artists

Coinciding with the greatest footballing event across the globe, the 2018 FIFA World Cup, Art of Football will see Liverpool host three major exhibitions, a symposium, pop-up cinema, and a music festival as well as stage a call out for community groups to take part in a football parade with a difference – all in celebration of the creative culture and social fabric which underpins football.

From 15th June to 15th July, Art of Football, looks to bring together two usually detached worlds with more in common than they might think. The events explore the international tapestry of footballing culture, in some cases quite literally, with the results of last month’s Terrace Tapestries workshops at The Florrie on display at the Martin Luther King Building during the World Cup.

The cross-discipline festival will investigate football from all angles, with Soccerama Symposium at Central Library debating the modern relationship of football to equality, populism, and in particular race and LGBTQ culture (12th-13th July). My personal favourite, and the furthest from the conversational comfort zone of modern day football is an exhibition of design and illustration in response to the late-great Umberto Eco’s ‘World Cup and Its Pomps’, an essay which concludes “Is the armed struggle possible on World Cup Sunday…Is revolution possible on a football Sunday?”

I guess that’s my reservation with football – just how far does it get in the way of other conversations, and when might it actually start to help? This will be such a welcome relief from positivity for anyone looking to cast a critical eye on the not-so-beautiful game, at Camp and Furnace (30th June – 15th July).

Disco Sócrates, on the other hand, looks set to undo all the hard work of the graphic designers, just over the road at Constellations on 30th June, with one of the most positive events of the festival, pouring MCs, jazz musicians, traditional Arabic music and performance art from artists drawn from the participating World Cup Nations.

But the starring exhibition comes when photographer Tom Wood, who has featured in these pages a lot recently, teams up with Ken Grant and Tabitha Jussa to explore what football means to its fans, and just how deep it runs in the culture of the city, for Common ground, an exhibition examining the communities that have evolved alongside the multi-million pound industry.

Tabitha Jussa, the artist who walked away with the main prize and the People’s Choice award at the Liverpool Art Prize in 2014, has continued her work with the people and spaces of Liverpool since then. Her work has always focussed on people, not always with them in the frame, but the impact of people, or the impact on people.

One of the most memorable of her works centred around the belief and hopes of fans in 2008. It was the Capital of Culture year, so everywhere was used to becoming unusual galleries by this point, but the King Harry pub and the Winslow, two of Liverpool’s most strongly held footballing footholds, were two of the most unexpected galleries of that year.

In 2008 there was an energy and excitement surrounding the rumours of both clubs moving stadiums, and finding new homes, a decision still going on ten years later, with little change in the emotions of that debate. Her photo series in the pubs followed the passionate supporters of the city’s clubs, marked as a project of the people, for the people – the inimitable 12th men and women of every match.

The unconditional love fans gift to their teams sets this exhibition apart, opening at the Albert Dock Colonnade on the 15th June and running right through to the World Cup Final on the 15th July as part of Liverpool2018, a celebration of ten years since Capital of Culture, and ten years since Tabitha Jussa occupied two of Liverpool’s most passionate pubs.

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Preview: words, Patrick Kirk-Smith