Putting the Balls Away is an interactive performance, a single channel video, and a video installation depicting the historic tennis match, the “Battle of the Sexes.” In 1973, “Battle of the Sexes,” held at the Houston Astrodome, was the most-watched live sporting event to date. It infamously pitted former Wimbledon men’s champion Bobby Riggs against Billie Jean King at a moment when women tennis players demanded pay equal to that of their male counterparts.
In the installed version of the work, a 12’ x 20’ mock tennis court is hung on the wall, unfolding onto the floor; the space of representation is thus allowed to extend into the actual architectural space.
Billie Jean King’s victory over Bobby Riggs at this event sparked a cultural debate that exceeded the sports arena. Excerpts from the sports commentators, Howard Cosell and Rosie Casals, exemplify the spirit of the match:
HC: There’s the velocity that Billie Jean can put on the ball, and walking back, she’s walking more like a male than a female.
RC: I just wonder whether Bobby would look better in a tennis dress . . . better than the shorts maybe.
HC: Billie Jean of course won the first set, to the absolute delight of all of the women in the arena. They actually stood and gave her an ovation and I suspect many in their living rooms did the same thing.
Joanie4Jackie and The Film & Electronic Arts Department, Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY, March 28, 2012
She Got Game, Arlington Arts Center, Arlington, VA, January 13-March 18, 2012
To Be Determined: A Video Salon, New Nothing Cinema, San Francisco, CA, March 8, 2012
Greater New York: Cinema, MOMA/PS1, New York, NY, September 30-October 4, 2010
The Mood Back Home: an exhibition inspired by WOMANHOUSE, Momenta Art, Brooklyn, NY, February 13-March 16, 2009
Speculate: Queer (Re)Visions, Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center, Buffalo, NY, August 21, 2009
Optimism, Westport Arts Center, Westport, CT, 2008
I Feel You, Roebling Hall, New York, NY, 2006
Sharon L. Butler, “The Mood Back Home,” The Brooklyn Rail, April 6, 2009 [review of Putting the Balls Away installation]
Leah Devun, “Leah Devun loves ‘Putting the Balls Away’,” VenusZine, June, 26, 2008 [images and review of Putting the Balls Away performance]
Jessica Kraft, “New York News,” Contemporary Magazine #88, 2006 [review of Putting the Balls Away performance]