The Table Tennis Player and the World  2010

Seven-minute HD video featuring a game of table tennis played between a semi-professional table tennis player and nobody. The player repeatedly serves the ball towards her non-existent opponent, and then waits for the non-existent return. Shot on location in Berlin.

The work was commissioned by Laznia Centre for Contemporary Art, Gdansk, Poland for the exhibition The Dump: Recycling of Thoughts. Artists involved were invited to realise ideas from artist and media theorist Maurice Benayoun’s online repository of unused concepts, the-dump.net. The selected concept, entitled The Players and the Wall/World, is described as follows:

For me, creation is a bit like tennis; if one plays with oneself, it is the wall/world that sends the ball back, more or less in a good way. If one finds oneself facing a good player – who sends back well, seeks weaknesses in defence or attack, does not hesitate – then, as if by miracle, one plays like never before. The worst case, for me, is when there are absolutely no bounces. The ball is sent out and never comes back. When one serves in emptiness, one gets exhausted or bored.

In her essay Will Only the Best Ideas Be Realised? published in the exhibition catalogue the_dump/Recycling of Thoughts curator Agnieszka Kulazinska writes:

Dave Ball followed the [recycling] instructions at first sight [...]. [His] work showed a lonely player against the background of a huge block of flats. The table tennis player took position to return the balls, but the balls were hit past her, landing on the grass together with many others. At first glance the video was a realisation of Maurice Benayoun’s concept. The artist however made many subtle shifts, changing the concept/meaning of the work. The original idea was to show tennis as a metaphor for the process of creation.

Dave set his work in an urban environment using an existing table for table tennis. The player, in contrast to the surrounding blocks of flats, was alone; no one else was passing by – there was no other sound to distract her. The picture was accompanied only by the monotonous sound of a hit ball against the background noise of public transport. Dave shifted the meaning of the original idea from an image of the creation process to a situation describing an individual alienated in an urban environment.