Aleksandra Mir’s Triumph is a massive installation of trophies – 2,529, to be precise – from every genre of sport, dating from the 1970s. The project was inspired by the artist’s visit to the house of an ageing friend who had been a very successful athlete in his youth, and whose prowess was demonstrated in a shrine-like room dedicated to the prizes and photographs of his glory days. She was struck by the conflicting aspects of it all; the drama, speed and excitement of those victorious seconds, the sadness that they could never be returned to, and the sense that some day those much-anticipated and thrilling moments would be reduced to nothing more than a series of trophy-engravings and clippings.
Aleksandra then put her own project into action -placing an advert in a Sicilian newspaper asking people to give her their trophies (offering five Euros in return). Within a few months she had amassed a huge selection of material, often interviewing those who submitted and throwing their stories and photographs into the mix.
The attitudes of the people who submitted the pieces also fed into the project’s development; often people were more than willing to get rid of them – the meaning had stagnated; they had lost their original value, and were no longer that once yearned-for ornament. She noticed that as people’s lives went on, those ornaments often no longer took precedence; she cites a former long-distance runner who now regarded his kids as his finest achievement and wasn’t bothered with his trophies any more.
Triumph is part of Pursuit of Perfection: The Politics of Sport at The South London Gallery from July 27 to September 14.