Arts collective Quiet British Accent highlights the corrupt hierarchies of sports, through art

It all started with a newspaper. Or tabloid, rather. I was standing outside my mailbox holding a blinding white envelope in my hands. The address read from England, and had only taken 5 days to cross the wide Atlantic Ocean to reach the confines of this paint chipped and rusted mailbox here on Vancouver Island. Bloody miracle in itself that is, seeing as our national postal service seems to loose my packages destined for Ontario on a regular basis. Perhaps they dislike me.

Regardless, this envelope in my hands was my first physical introduction to Quiet British Accent; a UK based small design business centered around sporting culture.  Inside was the tabloid titled “England. Not England.”

As the sweat collected on my forehead under the summer sun while I rustled through the pages of the tabloid next to my mailbox on my dead end street, I knew that something mysterious was blooming inside of my head, fueled by this 12 page publication that showcases an ironic twist on the hoopla of sports, through art. It is the “Leaving Home Edition, 2012”, to be exact. And it was born to be an alternative to the Euro 2012 hype that invaded Europe this summer, causing mass hysteria in the sporting world.

Brilliant, right? No where on the pages are there editorials showcasing players or statistics, using dirty tactics of sarcasm to denounce a rival or hype up a champion. Rather, there is abstract poetry of sporting commentary chopped up and pasted in a code like literary structure reminiscent of Leonardo Da Vinci’s famous backward writing. Each page is a curious graphic design inspired by sport, but showing anything other than the traditional competitive propaganda affiliated with sporting entertainment.

Creator Jason Gale and his wife Sharon are QBA, and are a pair of designers  (Jason is a graphic designer, while Sharon designs clothing and is an art educator) who began creating, apparently, when they were young. They focus on the constructs of sports, and aim to produce artworks in varying media that echo irony and new perspectives on the deeper structure of what really churns beneath the entertainment allure.

“We are fascinated by the culture that surrounds sports. A growing culture that is gaining in reach and power all the time. We are not, however, active participants in any sport at all; it’s the culture, style, politics, and behaviours that interest us.”

It’s not too often that you come across a husband and wife team who begin a design firm that is generated off the culture of sports in a manner that counteracts the traditional winner / losers / failure / victor dichotomy of the athletic world. But when you watch riots after soccer matches, or a whole city demolish itself after losing Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final in Vancouver; it’s refreshing to know there are people out there in the world that are helping to really showcase this idiocy and madness of behaviour behind the energy of being a spectator. It’s like a beautiful slap in the face of rationality and an eye-opener for your slumbering conscious.

“A lot of sporting organizations and hierarchies seem to be riddled with incompetence at best and outright corruption at worst. Sport has such an opportunity to help the disenfranchised, yet the opportunity is often wasted. We will be pointing out missed opportunities and inequalities, as well, simply highlighting aspects which interest us. Hopefully with a smile on our face and our tongue in our cheek!”

Corrupt hierarchies in the sporting worlds dragged out in public to be showcased for their despicable acts of greed and malice through art. Penn State must be walking on egg shells around QBA these days. I request the next tabloid feature a full page spread of Jerry Sandusky and Joe Paterno. Something tells me that would be a sell out in record timing…

QBA has a collection of curious items such as the winter toque which quip’s a neutral stance on competition with the words “Not Going Down & Not Going Up” (inspired from a football chant, “We’re not going down and we’re not going up. We won’t win the league and we won’t win the cup…”) On their website the commentary paired with the toque reads: “Promotion and relegation. Ecstasy and despair. Yin and yang. Dark and light. Opposites only exist in relation to each other and some of us reject all the fuss. Some of us find joy in a mid-table security”. Or the t-shirt which reads “Mid-Field Gentleman” stacked in choppy formation, which let’s the wearer decide if they are a “Midfield general or a midfield gentleman”.

For the Olympics QBA is showcasing a new item highlighting the wonderful Brit, Fanny Blankers-Koen; an Olympian who won four gold medals during the last London Olympics in 1948, and once held the record for high-jump and long-jump. QBA has created a tote bag and art print screaming “We Love Fanny” in protest of her omission from the Transport of London’s recent map of 361 Olympic Stars.

“Fanny should be a household name,” reads the description on QBA’s site,” Aside from the small matter of being named the woman athlete of the 20th century by the International Association of Athletics Federations, she was a pioneer who smashed prejudices about gender, age and motherhood”.

Portions of the proceeds from sales of the “We Love Fanny” totes and prints will go to women’s sports charities in England. Feminists and equal rights opportunists, as well; hard to not want to get more involved with QBA, if I do say so myself…