The Prize Song

Two rings hang in front of a deep black background; hands, powdered and bandaged, reach up to them, but the rest of the body is invisible in the extreme close-up of the shot. Suddenly the body jerks up, a red leotard clothing legs and torso, and the camera remains trained on the dynamic movements. A brief pause in a position of balance, the strong upper arms – threaded by muscles and veins – are visible for a moment. Then the momentum again effaces the orientation, catapulting the gymnast into a new pose, before pausing once again for a few seconds. These images tell us something: they present the male athlete and his control over his own body as a sort of graphic torso. Even more emphatic is the sound accompanying the images: the rubbing of the leather straps always starts up when the image is focused on one of the heavily strained body parts; and the whiplash effect of the ropes and the presence of the hooks gives the voluntary gymnastics performance the air of a process of torture. After the dynamic finish the body disappears from the picture, the wooden rings clack against each other; and it is their noiseless swinging that ends the video sequence. No applause. No bows from the athlete. The film loop of barely three minutes begins again.