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Marcus Wood

Final Scaled Plan on graph paper for the Hockey Stick Sculpture used in the Performances. The text consists of instructions to the wood carver.


I decided to use the Hockey Stick as the central symbol for a series of performances exhibitions and installations in India in 2010.  It is not widely known but Hockey is officially India's national sport, not Cricket.  For a period of time, the India National Field Hockey Team was dominant in Olympic competition, winning eleven medals in twelve Olympics between 1920 and 1980. The run included six successive gold medals from 1928–1956.

Traditional hockey sticks were beautiful hand made sculptures, each a unique work of art made from a single branch of hickory, ash or mulberry wood the oldest one is from 1789. The anatomy of the modern stick consists of the handle, the shaft, the splice, the head, the toe and the heel.

Perhaps it is even less well known that the Hockey Stick is the preferred Indian weapon in gang wars and for ritual slayings by mobs.  Ample evidence of this is provided in surviving footage and photography showing the appalling Gujarat Riots of 2002.  Raja Bose remembered the hockey sticks and a dead infant:

"March 1, 2002, it was a hot day in Ahmedabad but the heat was coming from the blackened walls and the floor of the house I stood in amidst the ruins of Gulbarg Society in Naroda Patia, burnt down by a riotous mob the day before when they went on a rampage to avenge the burning of the Sabarmati Express in Godhra that left 59 karsevaks returning from Ayodhya dead.  On an assignment to find a "human interest" story, I did not have to go too far. A frock, probably of a two-year-old, caked in dry blood lay among furniture rammed by hockey sticks. And then the wall came down."

My installations and performances were an attempt to address this paradox, what might be called a semiotic cul de sac.


The Hockey stick project moved in many directions across many art forms the drawings above were all made on Japanese woodblock papers, and on Khadi rag papers, some of which had rose petals immersed in the paper pulp.  I used fabric die and applied the colour with medical syringes of different sizes with needles attached.  The stick had by this stage started to take on a life of its own, and so I wanted to see how far I could take its form and essence into saturated colour and abstraction.

Film Stick 2009-10 Various Locations Gujarat India.  Including School fine Art MSU Baroda, the holy mountain Pavagadh and the sacred river Narmanda


Many installations and performances lead up to the climax of this endeavour which involved taking the giant hockey stick through the temple site at Chandod before loosing it into the river Narmada.

The hockey stick was carved by a Rajastahni wood worker from my scaled drawings, and was 2 metres high.  I made miniature hockey sticks from sand cast bronze as votive offerings.  I made a series of installations  linking the stick with various energised substances including copper, hand beaten cooking pots, electrical cables and a golf ball.

A series of performances was then organized and choreographed by three young Indian performance artists Katyayni Gargi, Kartik Sood and Hetal Chudasama.  They danced the famous Madison from Bande Apart around hockey sticks on the rooftop of a  high rise block in Vadodara.  They performed on the top of the sacred mountain at Pavagadh. These ceremonies involved anointing the plinth of the sick with the sacred red clay Geru, turning the stick into a nail fetish by driving red hot nails into it and finally binding it with the holy Hindu red thread nadachadi.

The stick was then taken to Chandod temple city on the Narmada. This is one of the holiest of rivers in Bharat and the temple city is built where three rives meet. It is one of the seven holy rivers Hindus chant to for purification. Narmada is sacred to Lord Shiva.  The Banalingas (phallic rocks) are made naturally by the river Narmada the fetishes are in most Hindu homes in the area.  Narmada starts at Amarkantak in the border of Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh. It passes through Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and merges with the ocean in Gujarat near Bharuch. It was from this river estuary and then out into the ocean that the Hockey stick floated on its final journey.

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