Source, Belfast, 1998, Vol. 5, No. 1, Summer, pp. 20-24.


The Stadium referred to is the facility designed by Werner March for the Berlin Olympics of 1936. The site included an open-air theatre seating 20,000, an assembly area for 500,000 and a main stadium seating 120,000. The original design was constructed around a steel frame with lightweight cladding. Albert Speer, general architectural inspector for the third Reich, subsequently modified the design and had the steel infrastructure clad in masonry adding a curved colonnade that was decorated with Olympian figures. Speer's intervention into the stadium was meant to be a prelude to a more grand design seating 400,000 which would be located at Nuremberg.

This new stadium was intended to realise Hitler's vision of hosting the Olympic games in perpetuity after the 1940 games in Tokyo. The 1936 Berlin stadium like all stadia was intended to make manifest/ externalise an internal/national sense of pride. From an international perspective the XIth Olympiad signified the bringing back of Germany "...into the fold of nations", making them "...more human again..." as was reported in the New York Times of August 1936.

It is inevitable that historical perspectives when filtered by emotion fail to totally match up. Like life, the truth or accuracy lies in the detail. It is the detail of large, emotional, people centred situations that Victor Sloan addresses, not to undermine or reinforce but simply to highlight. He creates addendums to the main body of a collectively written text. He relays personal stories from a collective memory. They are examples of an individual's perspective, a perspective on a human scale as opposed to the public.

The individual perspective can contain unforeseen angles and details that the collective cannot allow for. The difference between the individual and the collective like the difference between peace and war is ultimately the difference between memory and forgetting. Victor Sloan's work seeks to challenge individual, cultural and national intolerance by reiterating many small, human scale questions rather than grand philosophical theories. The decline of aggression can be measured in the growth of the numbers of questioners and the sophistication of their questions.

How does one enable visual questions, on the human scale, to properly carry such importance? All six works that make up Stadium emphasise the private, the personal, and the human. The large-scale detail of the bell image takes the viewer at one level directly into the artist's perspective crouching before this impressive cast iron object. The bell would have been used to announce the commencement of the games and all the virtues that they entail. At the same time the bell was decorated with Nazi emblems that ran counter to the ideals of the Olympic movement. Sloan literally presents this paradox with detail; he accentuates the personal visual perspective and quietly contextualises it in the choice of subject.

The artist's awareness as to his method of questioning and the specific questions themselves is displayed by the inclusion of a near life size portrait of Adolf Hitler in civilian dress standing beside a blurry Paul Von Hindenburg. In 1932 Von Hindenburg had stood for and won a second term in office as Reich President despite Hitler's opposing candidacy. Hitler was appointed as Reich Chancellor in January 30th 1933. Images of Hitler in history books or Holocaust exhibitions are shorthand visual references introducing or reinforcing thematic discussions on the subject of bigotry and violence. An image of Hitler is less about the person and more about the content of his actions.

There is a world of difference between seeing and attending. One traditional example highlighting the difference is that of casually glancing at a newspaper and becoming aware of the fact that a certain word, for example, your name is printed on the page and having to read the page consciously attending to each word in order to find it again. With this work Victor Sloan wants to strike our attention and challenge our perceptual generalisations. He presents the whole via a series of details. To take in the whole you have to scrutinise each detail. You have to re-ask the questions and move away from your reassuring perceptual foundation.

James Kerr

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