Hockey is Canada’s sport. The boisterous crowds cheering on Team Canada in their gold medal winning game against the United States at the Vancouver Olympics have recently reinforced this fact. Generations of young Canadians have long aspired to become Olympic medalists and NHL hockey stars.
This photograph shows just one of the countless youth hockey teams. Yet upon close examination, not everything about this photograph is from the ordinary. For starters, it’s in the papers of renowned scholar of conceptual art, Lucy Lippard. Also, the players’ jerseys indicate that the sponsor is N. E. Thing Company. No, Lucy Lippard did not moonlight as a hockey coach and this company with a mysterious name did not manufacture hockey pucks.
The wiles of this photograph reveal the subversive tactics of a conceptual art collective based in—of all places—Vancouver. Founded by Iain and Ingrid Baxter, N. E. Thing Company (NETCO) pioneered the conceptual art movement in Canada. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, NETCO borrowed from corporate models to create and disseminate art. In this example, NETCO sponsored a local youth hockey team, intentionally corrupting the profitable business of hockey into a conceptual art project. Photographs like this remain as the trace evidence of NETCO’s practices.
And I thought the only art found in hockey games were the painted bodies of avid fans.
Mary Savig is a curatorial assistant at the Archives of American Art.