Fields of Friendly Strife, 2013
Looped video on monitor, variable dimensions
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"Upon the fields of friendly strife are sown the seeds that upon other fields, on other days, will bear the fruits of victory."
- General Douglas MacArthur
This film uses footage of military football games and the Sandhurst competition to attempt to explore the connections between patriotism, violence, and entertainment.
The US military academy shown in the film uses athletics as a way to train their cadets for combat. Cadets are required to participate in competitive athletics in order to train for these situations and also to develop the traits that football apparently instills, such as “respect, integrity, and moral courage.”
I used official and fan footage of the school’s military football team to show the similarities between training for and talking about war and football, especially in the rituals of military football games, which include cannons, parachutes, and a march-on with all of the cadets and officers facing the enemy team’s soldiers. I also used “fight songs” that fans sing at football games whose lyrics could be about military conquest or football.
In addition, I used fan footage of the Sandhurst (SANCOM) competition, which is a competitive obstacle course that tests soldiers’ military skills that has been going on for decades. Countries from around the world send soldiers to compete in teams. Challenges include marksmanship, throwing grenades, first aid, and water crossings. It is open to the public and spectators are invited to cheer on their countries. The competition is quite serious for these fans and for the participants, and in one clip one spectator says that they want to “see some blood” as an opposing team enters the view. The final clip ends in an American troop being awarded the plaque and the crowd chanting “USA,” reminding one of the celebrations when Osama bin Laden was killed – another situation of violence that became a moment of patriotism for certain Americans.
I want to question this desire to “see some blood,” especially when this becomes tied to patriotism or national achievement. The military football games and SANCOM are spectator events when violence, or the suggestion of/ training for violence, is inexorably tied to patriotism and entertainment.