Unruly Pitch: Flows and stoppages in football, art and methods.

By Jen Southern


Mobility is made in the relations between flows and stoppages. At the center of this paper is an artist’s residency with a mass football game in the north of England that is said to have no rules. A mobile making practice revealed the tension between unruliness and convention in both the game and the research methods. Massumi’s (2002) use of football to reflect on the ongoing and productive relations between the individual and the collective suggests that through the absence of a referee, who stops the game to apply the rules, the game and the town are open for greater collective ownership by participants. Mobile making, and its openness to improvisation, provides researchers with a unique analytical perspective on the game.

Making Art as Mobile Method

Art and social science research methods are becoming unruly, they are stretching their disciplinary boundaries and learning from each other. There are well-documented practices of artists working in situations outside the studio since the 1960’s (Doherty 2009), through residencies that embed them in industries, companies and politics (Jahn 2010), academia, technology and business (Ferran 2013) and environmental, social and cultural situations (Bravo and Triscott 2010). There has been an emergence of the artist doing fieldwork, following various sociological models from ethnographies to breaching experiments, surveys to focus groups (Rutten, van. Dienderen and Soetaert 2013).

Meanwhile within social science there has been an opening up of method to experimentation in order to research things that are ‘complex, diffuse and messy’ (Law 2004:2) and to engage with the unfolding, ephemeral and elusive nature of mobility and movement (Büscher, Urry and Witchger 2011). Law and Urry asked us to “Imagine a fluid and decentered social science, with fluid and decentered modes for knowing the world allegorically, indirectly, perhaps pictorially, sensuously, poetically, a social science of partial connections.” (2004: 400), while Lury and Wakeford discuss ‘inventive methods’ that are both creative and that enact new social realities (2012).

In mobilities research the Mobile Lives Forum, a French research institute funded by SNCF, regularly works with artists who engage with mobilities, such as commissioning Chinese artist Ai Weiwei in 2015 to observe and report on the refugee crisis in Europe (Loge and Sheller 2015). Mimi Sheller asks how the ways that artists work with network technologies in urban spaces might inform research methods: “If these artistic modalities are indeed producing new understandings of our contemporary situation, and as I have argued new forms of mobile conviviality, then perhaps we can also use these tools and techniques to generate new research methodologies and new tactics for interventions in the networked spaces of digital urbanism “ (2013). This observation, that artists produce new understandings by using creative methods, acts as a useful framing through which to reflect on the art work Unruly Pitch and the ways in which mobile making, that is working creatively with and within mobile media, might change how we come to understand the world.

As art practice and social science research increasingly overlap they use each other’s methods in productive and inventive ways to make change in the world. This paper takes mobile making in an artist’s residency as its starting point, and asks how, as art practitioners, we contribute to mobilities scholarship.


Uppies and Downies

In 2015 I did an artists residency with the ‘Uppies and Downies’, a mass-football game in Workington on the North West coast of Cumbria, UK. It is one of only 15 surviving games that have been played throughout Britain since medieval times and were precursors of modern football (Hornby 2008:11). I invited Chris Speed, Professor of Design Informatics and a long term artistic collaborator, along with designer and researcher Anais Moisy and hardware and software engineer Chris Barker (all from Edinburgh University) to collaborate with me. Together we developed mobile making methods that revealed a tension between unruliness and convention: in a game that is made on-the-move, in the improvisational readiness of mobile making, and in place-making through mobile play.

We can’t say to the players not to go in certain places, because there are no rules. (Clark quoted in Bedendo, 2015)

Uppies and Downies players often say that there are no rules. However there are many unwritten rules or conventions (Hornby 2008: 15). The game is known as a ‘happening’ rather than an organized event, and no individual or organization is responsible for it. The game is unruly in both its openness to invention of new tactics and in its sense of roughness and violence that has been a recurring theme in local media (Coon 2015) and in writing about mass or folk football (Fournier 2009:197). Despite this, there are conventions that enable the repetition of play. Mass football games like this predate both football and rugby, and share similarities with both, for instance players hold the ball rather than kick it and a scrum is often formed. This is our first instance of mobile making, a game that is made on the move.

Fig 1. The throw off. [Image: Stuart Roy Clarke @homesoffootball]

Fig 1. The throw off. [Image: Stuart Roy Clarke @homesoffootball]

Every year on Easter Friday, Tuesday and the following Saturday three games are played. For each game a new handmade leather ball is thrown off the ‘long bridge’ over a beck (a stream), in an area of rough ground known as the Cloffocks. The two teams gather in a strategically placed mass, waiting for the ball to be thrown off at 6.30pm. Once the ball is thrown it is said that ‘anything goes’, except for one unwritten rule, that the ball cannot be taken in a vehicle.

Although there are prominent individuals there are no team leaders or representatives, and no referee. The game lasts until a goal is scored, in anything from 20 minutes to over 24 hours. The person holding the ball when it reaches the goal wins the game for their team, and the ball for themselves. Traditionally the Uppies were miners and their goal is at Curwen Hall, formerly the mine owner’s home. The Downies were dockworkers, sailors and carpenters and their goal is at the stone jetty. These conventions of Uppies and Downies, the goals, dates and times, a ball, and two opposing sides, allow the game to persist recognizably from year to year, and yet each game will inevitably vary from the last.

Social theorist and philosopher Brian Massumi discusses relations between the individual and the collective through the official game of football (2002: 71). He describes the tension formed by the goals as a ‘field of potential’ within which the game takes place. We called our work ‘Unruly Pitch’, reflecting a flexible field of potential for the game, but also for the boundaries of the pitch. As the game play can go anywhere in the town there is a heightened tension reflected in the removal of cars and in the past the boarding up of shop windows. Massumi also describes the relationships that the ball creates “If the goal-posts, ground, and presence of human bodies on the field induce the play, the ball catalyzes it. The ball is the focus of every player, and the object of every gesture.” (ibid., 73) He calls the ball a ‘part-subject’, because in addition to players impact on the ball’s movement, the movement of the teams are also in response to the trajectory of the ball, ‘where and how it bounces differentially potentializes and depotentializes the entire field, intensifying and de-intensifying the exertions of the players and the movements of the team’ (ibid.).

The pitch and the ball, while different, are enough to make the game of Uppies and Downies recognizable as ‘football’. However in official football Massumi describes the way that the referee stops the game in order to apply the rules, which ‘depotentializes’ the field, and singles out individuals who have broken the rules, ‘the field whose conditions are thoroughly collective are reduced to local moves of individual origin and deviant effect.’ (ibid., 78.) This application of the rules challenges variations that occur through the happening of the game, and at the same time the rules codify and stabilize the game so that it can travel to multiple locations and times. The inclusion of a referee allows for the rules to become the ‘generality’ from the ‘particularity’ of the specific game.

In Uppies and Downies however there is no referee, the game does not stop until the end. [1]  and the individual is not singled out until the moment they score the winning goal. The collective becoming of the game is not interrupted by an official set of rules. Instead, like the variability of the pitch, the rules are also open to change, within the game and afterwards when they are discussed and argued over and variations of convention emerge ‘In the making, in the midst, in the openness of outcome’ (ibid., 80). I want to suggest that in this unruliness of the game such as unlimited numbers of players, the whole town being the pitch, and the absence of a referee, Uppies and Downies continues to belong to the players - who are part of the ongoing becoming of the game - rather than to a regulatory body, and this sense of belonging extends to a sense of ownership of the identity of the town.


Making Unruly Mobile Methods

In order to engage with the multiple perspectives of this unruly game we combined performative methods of travelling with the action, and prepared ourselves to be sensitive to the mobilities of the crowd. This is the second form of mobile making, of both methods and art on the move. We used three methods of capturing the action: GPS trackers made lines which we then overlaid on to digital maps and used as a prompt for interviews; we followed the game to capture the action with improvised use of a drone, a GoPro video camera, DSLR stills camera and sound recording devices; and we worked with an experienced sports photographer. Our key focus was to try to capture the movement of the players and of the game through the town. However, although we knew that we would make some form of map for the exhibition, we did not know enough about the game to second guess what other elements might be important in the final art work. Instead we used tools that we had previously found useful in capturing mobile, ephemeral and sensuous qualities of an event, and prepared to observe and respond to whatever unfolded.

The ball as catalyst of the game and center of the action was our initial focus, but there were three challenges to tracking it. Firstly the leather football is densely packed with wool, which would significantly reduce the clarity of the GPS signal as it was thrown, carried and kicked across the town. Secondly, the ball is made several weeks in advance and then kept by its sponsor until the game, so it would need to be motion activated to preserve battery life. After the game the ball is kept as a trophy by the winning player, so we would need to remotely download the data without destroying the ball using a Bluetooth connection. However we could not find both features in a commercially available, robust and waterproof tracker. Thirdly, secrecy plays an important tactical role in the game through dummy runs, sneaking the ball out of play and even hiding it until players have dispersed. Despite its lack of broadcasting capacity the ball maker and players were worried that the GPS would be trackable during the game, undoing this aspect of play. Tracking the ball was therefore materially, technically and socially unfeasible so we hoped that by combining tracks of individual players, made with sports watches, we could trace the collective action of the game that is catalyzed by the ball. These watches worked well in uncertain conditions, they have long battery life for the variable length of the game, they collect detailed data to show intricate movements, and are waterproof for changing environmental conditions. The attempt to track the ball had failed, but as artists and designers our proposal to intervene had engaged in the material, social, temporal and technical in a different way to an observer, and had produced reactions that revealed useful details of the game and players relationships to it. The materialities of making had offered a different approach, one of creative production, through which to learn about the game.

The teams are not part of an organized group, but a player I was in contact with offered to introduce us to others at a pub an hour before the game. We then used gaffer tape to secure the GPS watches to player’s ankles because they suggested that if worn on their wrists it would prevent them from making subtle movements between the mass of bodies in a scrum. Although we had been told that players from both sides would be in the pub there were no Downies there, so we went to the throw off point to find them 10 minutes before the game. We obtained hurried consent, taped the watches on and agreed to meet them at a pub afterwards. The whole process felt risky, we had no way of checking that the trackers were working or still attached to players or whether players would remember to meet us afterwards, and the informed consent was so lacking that we would have to revisit it later.

Fig 2. Anais taping watch to players leg. [Image: Stuart Roy Clarke @homesoffootball]

Fig 2. Anais taping watch to players leg.
[Image: Stuart Roy Clarke @homesoffootball]

To capture some of the action visually we used video, sound, photographs and a drone, and their role in the final work was unclear until we had experienced the game and seen what we had captured. We stayed as close as possible to the game and adapted our techniques to follow the unpredictable action. Chris Barker got as close to the scrum as possible without being in it, and held the lightweight GoPro camera above it. Anais used a DSLR camera and I carried an audio recording device as we approached and retreated from the scrum. We were also working with Stuart Roy Clarke a professional football photographer who had a much deeper knowledge of the game. His experience allowed him to anticipate where to be to get interesting images. In contrast, with no previous experience we could only respond to what we saw and felt. These two approaches resulted in different forms of documentation, the well-composed professional photographs, and our more chaotic, fragmentary and exploratory recordings.

Fig 3. Chris Barker holding a GoPro camera over the scrum. [Image: Anais Moisy]

Fig 3. Chris Barker holding a GoPro camera over the scrum. [Image: Anais Moisy]

Our methods felt unruly. The residency was short so we had tried to prepare to be flexible without knowing whether we would get the tracks that we wanted, or what we would miss. Finding volunteers at the start line, taping the watches on, and holding the camera over the action were all improvised in response to the situation as it arose. In this sense our work was a quick snapshot of Uppies and Downies; on reflection we had attended to flow rather than image, and to the ongoing sense of becoming in action that is not stopped by rules or referee. Rather than being ‘distorted into clarity’ (Law 2004:2) by methods that leave the movement out, or distorting the action into a representational stoppage, our method, as an improvised attempt to focus on movement, had engaged with the materials, senses and flows of the game.


Game making on-the-move

The use of GPS tracks as a focus for interviews allowed us to discuss more details of the game. Players stated strongly that there are no rules, and yet conventions are continually reproduced and refined on-the-move and negotiated between players, landowners and landscapes over many years. The game, like other situated actions, unfolds over time through embodied improvisation (Suchman 2007: 72). It often involves a heaving scrum, the boundaries of which are in constant flux, as people join and leave, and young teenagers congregate nearby to make their first tentative shove before leaping out of the way. The scrum can lurch unpredictably in any direction, or someone might break free and make a run for it. The boundary between players and spectators is fluid, someone who hasn’t played all day can join in at the last minute, and even win the game. While some players are in for the whole game, others come out if they are exhausted, injured, or to be with their family, and depending on how things unfold go back in later. Despite the unruly intensity of the scrum, the game is fluid and the boundary between in and out is porous, both player and audience are part of the field of potential. Using creative methods has similarly fluid boundaries. While the GPS tracking was core to the work, the other media could be included or not, depending on how their production unfolded, and in relation to what we observed and focused on through our experience of the game.

Conventions are negotiated both in motion and in discussion. The Downies I interviewed were very definite about the Uppies goal boundary, and our GPS tracks show them setting off home before we realized the game was over. Their clarity had come through a previous dispute over players who stayed in the game after the boundary was crossed. The goal boundary (the outer fence or wall) is different from the hailing point (the hall). The individual who has won for their team ‘hails’ the ball by throwing it in the air three times. For the Uppies the competition continued in order to decide which individual had won the ball. There were several different understandings of what happened when it went over the boundary, of who was holding the ball, who was touching it, and what happened as they made their way up the hill to Curwen Hall. A referee might have made a definitive decision, but the players continued to battle it out. The unwritten rule that the ball can’t be put into a vehicle similarly came about only after it had happened and been disputed. The conventions that are made and broken in play continue to evolve.

During the interviews the players described how they communicate with each other in the scrum, and the physical toil of the game:

And you've got your mates trying to push, and people pulling at the ball, and pulling at your fingers and at your arms and your legs. They're trying to prize it off you, they'll pull your fingers, your thumbs, they'll nip, its no holds barred and it can get a bit brutal if I'm honest, but its good fun. (Beaumont 2015)

There are also more subtle forms of contact and communication with teammates, some of it is strategy planned in advance, but more often players simply act on experience. One player described how they subtly communicate through coded taps on hands, or through listening out for the voices of teammates:

… we've got a little code, so when you feel taps in a certain way, you know. Gangs of lads, your mates, they all have their own little thing. There's different sets of mates, we're all Uppies and we'll all help each other, but a lot of lads will work with their mates. But you still know, its a lot of trust as well. (Beaumont 2015)

One tactic that is ‘not only tolerated but admired’ (Hornby 2008:15) is to ‘sneak’ the ball out of the scrum, often hidden under clothing, through a faked injury or passing the ball back without anyone noticing. There is also a convention of helping each other out when in danger; any player who is seriously hurt, or in danger of being crushed or drowned in the beck is hauled out of the scrum by players from either side.

Mobilities are negotiated through the game and on-the-move on a variety of scales, from a tap on the back of the hand, a ball sneaked out of the scrum to the porous line of being in or out of the game. For those outside the game these mobilities can seem unruly and violent (Bedendo, 2015). Although players themselves are proud of the game having no rules it is clear that in order to play the game, strategies for deception, communication and safety have developed, and through a complex mix of improvisation, convention, dispute and negotiation the game both persists and changes each year. The game is made through its unruly mobility, and conventions enacted on the move, rather than through the stoppages of referee and rules. We were similarly developing our techniques for observing the game on the move. I went back to the third game of the season to see more, and decided to interview players after we had reviewed what we had experienced and initially collected.


Unruly Place-making

 The third form of mobile making in this work is the making of place through mobility, and as Tim Cresswell suggests "Places are constructed by people doing things and in this sense are never “finished” but are constantly being performed” (2015: 69). Uppies and Downies is closely connected to the physical landscape of Workington, and to the identity of the town through its geography and its industrial history. Since the decline of mining and the docks, if people live above the Cloffocks they are an Uppie, below it they are a Downie, and as the 2015 program states, ”The land is both the playing ground and the barrier which divides its two teams” (Anonymous 2015). The ease of play for each side has been altered as the town has changed. An area of open grass where a scrapyard or a dog racing track once stood are now much easier to cross, but the building of a supermarket, a town hall, a cricket pitch or a sports center make other routes much harder giving rise to speculations about the end of the Uppies and Downies, and then protest against planning permission (Wainwright and Carter 2009).

Demolition of housing in the west during the 1970’s and 80’s seriously depleted the Downies team, which was subsequently strengthened by players from the new Northside housing estates in the late 1980’s (Wallace p32). Physical changes to the town alter the game and its players, both permanently and temporarily, for instance when flooding brought debris into the river making it more hazardous for Downies to use that route.

On the day of the game public access to the town temporarily changes as the scrum blocks different spaces, and it is inadvisable to park a car near the Cloffocks. For the teams, however, the game opens up the possibility of following the ball, despite whether the land is public or privately owned. The idea that the game can go anywhere, and that the usual boundaries between private and public land are temporarily suspended for the duration of the game, is common amongst players. The building site for a new town sports center, and the cricket club were used as part of the pitch in 2015. Uppie stalwart Joe Clark defended players saying that ‘The game has been in the town long before the cricket club’, and the club itself says ‘Most years we get some sort of damage. We try to be nice and keep the gates open.’ (Bedendo, 2015). There are countless stories of the game roaming over the town, into the café at the bus station, onto a bus, a scrum against a plate glass window on the main street. The pitch is an unruly field of potential produced by the movement of players, who have unwritten license to ignore boundaries for the time of the game, although this opinion is not held by the whole town (Bedendo 2015, Coon 2015).

The embodied practices of mobility in the city, and their capacity to transgress conventional landscapes is similar in the case of parkour runners:

It destabilizes and disrupts technocapitalist meanings of a city’s physical and social landscape for its practitioners. Parkour is ultimately a communion with one’s habitat, in the goal of exploring how one’s body is shaped by the political geography of a late modern city. (Atkinson 2009: 2)

This counter-cultural sense of the city as an open field for experimental and physical exploration, unbounded by the rules of property or propriety is echoed in the unruly nature of Uppies and Downies in the way the usual use of the town is suspended:

Games of Uppies and Downies offer participants a freedom of movement that is rare today. For one precious day only, within reason, the town or village in which they live becomes their playground. This is because, unlike games played on pitches, for the most part festival football knows no boundaries. (Hornby 2008:10)

In parkour and mass football the production of place is shaped by an ongoing bodily performance outside the rules, and a sense of identity and ownership of place is generated along with the movement of bodies. Changes in planning, demolition and building all alter the nature of the game, but play also pushes back at place, testing and opening up boundaries of public and private ownership, and protesting against planning decisions.

Massumi points to the regularity of event-spaces, such as stadiums and houses, that are reproducible and recognizable as ‘type[s] of space’ (2002: 83). The Unruly Pitch is not as recognizable or reproducible. Although there are mass football games in other towns there are significant differences, for instance in the size of the ball, the presence of rules, the length of the game (Hornby 2008 discusses these differences in detail). Massumi suggests that the usual regularity of event-spaces ‘is why “isolation,” “defamiliarization,” “distancing” or “decontextualization” – ways of freeing the event from its regular event-space – are so often cited as conditions of “art” as a practice of transformation resisting containment by social or cultural power formations’ (2002: 84). Similarly the defamiliarization of the town by making it into the pitch for the day, allows Uppies and Downies to temporarily resist being contained by the usual social and cultural power formations that regulate public space. The flow of the game, both on the day and in ongoing discussion of conventions promotes ownership and responsibility for the game and the town.


Making Mobilities Visible

The Unruly Pitch art work also defamiliarizes GPS traces, to use them as partial and allegorical representations rather than God’s eye view data visualizations. GPS sports trackers allow users to track individual actions as part of what has been called the ‘quantified self’ (Swan 2012). When multiple tracks are visualized together (e.g. London taxis, cycle couriers, airplane traffic as seen in BBC’s Britain From Above (2008)) they reveal patterns of trajectories, but rarely their relational qualities. Our visualizations resist these rules of GPS tracking, to reveal a collective game in a constant flow of becoming.

The artwork is in three parts: a replica ball embossed with the GPS tracks by hand; animated GPS tracks that reveal a video of the scrum, and a digital map using the GPS traces to describe the game in the physical context of Workington. The works hold a tension between unruliness, convention and measurement and between views from inside and outside the game in order to shift an idea of landscape in art and GPS mapping from a perspectival ‘view’, to a more-than-representational or performative and relational mobile practice (Merriman et al 2008). Each part of the work presents a partial or fragmented element of the action; each is purposefully bereft in its ability to fully represent what happened.


Fig. 4 The ball

The replica ball in the artwork was made by Shane Ball with Mark Rawlinson the official ball maker. This is the only official role in the game, to produce the ball that catalyzes play. During the game the ball picks up marks and scratches, evidence of the impact of people, actions and environments, and after the match it accrues stories in the retelling of how it was won. The GPS tracks that we embossed into the ball echo these traces, they travel over the spherical surface. In order to see the whole track of the entangled relational movements of the players, the audience would have to engage with the tactile and material experience of holding and turning the ball.

Unruly Pitch from Anais Moisy on Vimeo.

The video follows the movement of the game using animated GPS tracks, and the sound track captures the shouts, grunts and heaves of the physical action. The moving tracks unfold and through them the observer can see the collective action of the scrum. The flow of GPS demonstrates the rhythms of the game, at times surging across a field, at others static in a car park, or thundering and splashing down a watercourse. The temporality and close framing of the animation follows the unfolding GPS action rather than revealing an overview; like the game the image is constantly produced in motion, and can never be seen as a whole. The GPS allows us to trace multiple people that we would find it difficult to keep track of otherwise, while the video and audio recordings add a visceral quality to the technical data. There is a tension between the flow of the lived world as:

…people do not traverse the surface of a world whose layout is fixed in advance – as represented on the cartographic map. Rather, they ‘feel their way’ through a world that is itself in motion, continually coming into being through the combined action of human and non- human agencies. (Ingold 2000: 155).

and how the GPS tracks are produced

… these sensings would be impossible without the fine grid of calculation which enables them: they are not, as many writers would have it, in opposition to the grid of calculation but an outgrowth of the new capacities that it brings into existence. A carefully constructed absolute space begets this relative space. (Thrift 2004: 98)

Ingold (2000: 226) suggests that movement is a continuous flow, not a series of points occupied in sequence and Jo Vergunst (2011) critiques the use of GPS for its reliance on technology rather than techniques of the body as ethnographic tools. Our video work however uses the GPS’s gridded measurement, perhaps the ‘rules’ that structure mapping, to produce a representation that reflects the ongoing temporal and embodied and unruly movements through the town, not as a perfect track on a map, but as a sense of relative flows and actions.

Fig 6: The map

Fig 6: The map

The map element of the work, in which the GPS traces are placed into the geography of the town, uses water as its only geographical feature. Water plays an important part in the game – the docks, the ‘long bridge’ over the beck, and the river Derwent that Downies often float down with the ball. The GPS traces describe the spaces that were moved through, the ‘Unruly Pitch ’ of that day within the field of potential. The compass is illustrated as North, South, Down and Up, using a line drawn between the goals as the east/west axis, the field of potential tilting the geographic orientation of the game. This map offers a partial overview, but as a static representation is bereft of the temporal nature of movement and place-making. In the legend is a text derived from the interviews in which the words of the players describe their experience of the game, inserting affect into the abstraction of the map.

The map, the video and the ball all use different methods to play between the affective experience of the game and its measurement and recording with GPS technologies, between the rule like grid and the unruly flow of movement. Each of them offers a partial perspective rather than a whole story, they balance the overview with the trace, and reveal the individual and collective as relationally entangled.



As artists we were tracking the Uppies and Downies game to make work for an exhibition, rather than to answer a research question. However, within this hybrid ethnographic practice we were also sensitive to the other things that might be learned in the process. We came across a tension between unruly-ness and convention, how practices develop through the re-enacting of those conventions and that breaking out of them can be productive and liberating, in mass football but also in research methods.

Improvisation in an unknown situation meant that we had to combine traditional, mobile and inventive methods. Speculative video, photography and sound recordings then shaped the final artwork. This method of feeling out the territory is not uncommon in creative practice, and highlights that embodied improvisation and situated practices can shape the methods and outcomes in a dynamic way. It may be unruly at times, but hybrid social research and creative practice are able to engage with the unfolding, ephemeral, contingent nature of situations.

We found unruliness within the flows and stoppages of mobile making in: an unfolding game with no rules and no referee, the gridded mapping and uncertainty of situated tracking, and the ongoing nature of place-making in motion. By following the game while attending to the gathering of audio and visual materials that could become an artwork, we were sensitive to how we were sensuously experiencing and participating in the movement as it happened. The flexibility of the creative outcome allowed us to work around what might have seemed like obstacles or stoppages, for instance when we were not able to track the ball, or had trouble finding Downies to work with. This process highlighted that methods, technologies, places and actions are always performative, unfolding and contingent. The game accentuates this, but this feature of mobile making means that researcher and artist have to be responsive rather than strictly following methodological rules. The artwork, as an analysis, highlights the ways in which material, technical, geographic, visceral and personal are made together in the football match. Making art therefore focuses the researcher on how to tune themselves to the making of relational mobilities. To return to Shellers provocation, I suggest that mobile making participates in a world that is itself made on the move through unruly material, social, environmental and technical actions. Through the improvisational and creative process of making, new ways of understanding mobility are produced. The mobile making of the game, the methods, the place and the artwork, together and on the move, thus becomes a generative and creative way of being in and understanding the world.



 With thanks to John O’Shea and the National Football Museum, Manchester, UK who commissioned and supported the artists residency and exhibition.


PDF Version of Article


Anonymous. 2015. Uppies & Downies program.

Atkinson, Michael. 2009. “Parkour, Anarcho-Environmentalism, and Poiesis.” Journal of Sport and Social Issues. 33(2): 169-194.

Beaumont, Jamie. Interview by Jen Southern, May 5, 2015, transcript.

Bedendo, Federica. 2015. “Cricket Club Anger Over Uppies And Downies Damage.” News & Star, Friday, 10 April. Accessed December 21, 2015 http://www.newsandstar.co.uk/news/Cricket-club-anger-over-Uppies-and-Downies-damage-b3565b7d-b1c3-4537-ab46-d2c274bac635-ds.

Bravo, Michael and Triscott, Nicola. 2011. Arctic Perspective Cahier No.2: Arctic Geopolitics & Autonomy. Ostfildern: Hatje Cantz.

BBC 1. 2008. Britain from Above. 22:00 hrs, August 10. Accessed 31 January 2013. http://www.bbc.co.uk/britainfromabove/about/

Büscher, Monika, John Urry and Katian Witchger. 2011. Mobile Methods. Abingdon: Routledge.

Cresswell, Tim. 2015 Place: An Introduction. Second Edition. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

Coon, Robert. 2015. “Don’t View Uppies and Downies Through Rose Tinted Spectacles.” News & Star, 24 December. Accessed December 24, 2015 http://test.cnmedia.co.uk/don-t-view-Uppies-and-Downies-through-rose-tinted-spectacles-1.607243.

Doherty, Claire. 2009. Situation. London: Whitechapel Gallery.

Ferran, Bronac. 2013. Visualise: Making Art in Context. Cambridge: Angela Ruskin University.

Fournier, Laurent Sébastien. 2009. The Embodiment of Social Life: Bodylore and the Kirkwall Ba’ Game (Orkney, Scotland), Folklore 120:194–212.

Hornby, Hugh. 2008. Uppies and Downies: The Extraordinary Football Games of Britain. English Heritage.

Ingold, Tim. 2000. The Perception of the Environment: Essays on Livelihood, Dwelling and Skill. London: Routledge.

Jahn, Marisa. 2010. Byproduct: On the Excess of Embedded Art Practices. Toronto: YYZBooks.

Law, John. 2004. After Method: Mess in Social Science Research. Abingdon: Routledge.

Law, John and John Urry. 2004. “Enacting the social” Economy and Society. 3(3): 390- 410.

Logé, Guillaume and Mimi Sheller. About the exhibition. Forum Vies Mobiles. Accessed June 26 2016. http://artisticlab.forumviesmobiles.org/en/oeuvre/the-refugee-project

Lury, Celia and Nina Wakeford. 2012. Inventive Methods: The Happening of the Social. Abingdon: Routledge.

Massumi, Brian. 2002. Parables for the Virtual: Movement, Affect, Sensation. London: Duke University Press.

Merriman, Peter. George Revill, Tim Cresswell, Hayden Lorimer, David Matless, Gillian Rose and John Wylie. 2008. “Landscape, mobility, practice.” Social & Cultural Geography, 9(2): 191-212.

Rutten, Kris. An van. Dienderen and Ronald Soetaert. 2013. “Revisiting the ethnographic turn in contemporary art.” Critical Arts. 27(5): 459-473.

Sheller, Mimi. 2013. Mobile Conviviality. In: Flow 17. Accessed 12 August 2016. http://flowtv.org/2013/03/mobile-conviviality/ 

Suchman, Lucy. 2007. Human-Machine Reconfigurations: Plans and Situated Actions. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Swan, Melanie. 2012. “Sensor Mania! The Internet of Things, Wearable Computing, Objective Metrics, and the Quantified Self 2.0.” Journal of Sensor and Actuator Networks, 1: 217-253

Thrift, Nigel. 2004. “Movement-space: The changing domain of thinking resulting from the development of new kinds of spatial awareness” Economy and Society. 33 (4) 582-604.

Vergunst, Jo. 2011. “Technology and Technique in a Useful Ethnography of Movement” Mobilities, 6(2) 203-219.

Wallace, Keith. 2009. The Barbarians of Workington II: Uppies v Downies. Wallace & Scott.

Wainwright, Martin and Helen Carter. 2009. “Uppies beat Downies – but Tesco plans threaten medieval sporting tradition.” The Guardian. 20 April. Accessed December 21, 2015. https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2009/apr/20/workington-cumbria-Uppies-Downies-game


About the Author

Jen Southern is an artist, lecturer in Fine Art (New Media), and director of Mobilities lab for the Centre for Mobilities Research at Lancaster University.

Lancaster Institute for Creative Arts,

Lancaster University,

Lancaster, LA1 4YW, UK.



  1. Although there are exceptions, one temporary stoppage to this particular game happened when a car was about to be caught up in the scrum and sent into the beck, at which point players stopped and lifted it back to safety. The stoppage was one of caretaking. ^

1 comment for “Unruly Pitch: Flows and stoppages in football, art and methods.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *