In July, Eugene will host The World Athletics Championships (WAC), a biennial track event, for the first time on U.S. soil. With this event in mind, a new stadium at the University of Oregon was built at an expense of $270 million. Governor Brown supported the event by pledging $40 million ($9 million was provided by a federal grant, $10 million came from the Oregon Lottery, and $20 million came from Travel Oregon, the state’s tourism promotion agency).
200,000 people, more than the population of Eugene, are expected to partake in this event. We are living in a time of social, economic, and ecological distress, locally, nationally, and globally. There is a glaring disparity between the pomp and glory of these stadium spectacles and the issues of poverty, homelessness, war, racism, pollution, and climate chaos that the world is drifting through.
For the month of July 2022, three artists from New Zone Gallery Collective in Eugene - Asante Riverwind, Sandy Sanders, and myself (Ralf Huber) - will be exhibiting a special group installation of works examining the place of spectacle within society in a time of global crisis. The Panem Et Circenses (Bread and Circuses) exhibition addresses and challenges the entertainment society faces today, as well as its neglect of wider concerns.
We three artists feel it is important to put the purpose of our society back to providing for the social needs of humanity. While the WAC celebrates ever-improving human athletic skills, why are so many critical social policy inadequacies allowed to continue without the slightest of improvements?
This installation at New Zone Gallery will visually ask the question: “Is society addressing basic human needs with the same intent for success it has for our athletic events and entertainments?”
This is not about criticizing the athletes or sports in general. But, if athletic skills can progress, why can't humanity gain some ground on social problems? There are no justifiable reasons. The vast amount of money invested in events like this should be deployed to solve basic human needs so that we can then truly enjoy our athletic events and entertainment.