Postball in Spartanburg

Ahlen Moin

This guest post is written by Ahlen Moin, an artist and designer. He’s created contemporary and performance art. He is currently working on a graphic novel. Website: www.ahlenmoin.com (or friend him on Facebook: Ahlen Moin)

For three nights this past March I crashed at HUB-BUB. I slept on Artist-in-Residence Ron Longsdorf’s couch. How I got there is a long story. Ron and I are colleagues and friends. We met while both working security at a museum in Delaware. I was new to the area so he introduced me to the NWAA, a local artist collective of which he was a curator.

Soon I bounced performance ideas off of Ron. He gave me his opinion on which concepts held weight and which concepts didn’t communicate. The concepts that communicated to Ron were those dealing with childhood experiences. I prepared an interview-inspired performance entitled “My Salon” from that perspective. I drew from the hours I spent with my family watching Don Francisco interview countless stars on Univision. Ron curated the performance into the May 2009 NWAA exhibit “Bodies/Words/Sounds.” I interviewed Heather Campbell Coyle, Curator of American Art at the Delaware Art Museum, about topics in contemporary art.

After that performance Ron asked, “What will you draw from next?” I then drew inspiration from a childhood hobby. I spent ages bouncing a tennis ball off of a partial wall in my childhood home. I threw the ball so hard I repeatedly knocked much of the plaster off the laths. My uncle grew tired of repairing the plaster so he replaced it with drywall (which soon disintegrated) and then plywood. I was allowed to continue in this “destruction of property” because it was safer than playing ball outside- where the neighborhood quickly declined. So, instead of actually playing with others, I imagined playing with others. I envisioned players rounding bases and umpires making bad calls.

Great Martian Pastime

I had an eerie feeling in April 2010, when I stood across from a partial wall built by Ron and I. Fellow NWAA artists stood at bases arranged around the wall. Other artists waited behind home plate. They waited for me to pitch towards the wall, so they could commence running the bases. It was the first practice for my next performance “Great Martian Pastime.” The performance took place at Adaptation’s exhibit “The Rules for Staying Young” in May 2010.

At both practices and at the performance itself, something was evident: each player’s enthusiasm and thrill for the game was real. As soon as the “Great Martian Pastime” performance was over, the sport of postball began. Everyone who played the game and watched buzzed about it. Players told me any number of ways the game could be perfected; bystanders asked when the game would be played again.

When Ron prepared to leave for HUB-BUB we spoke about the game over pizza. We wanted to implement the tweaks that made the most sense. We’d let children (the harshest of critics) decide if the game was worth the effort or just another pipe dream. We decided to bring the game to Spartanburg.

In March 2011, HUB-BUB made that possible. I benefited from both their hospitality and their excellent network of people. Jonas Criscoe (previous Artist-in-Residence) currently with The Boys and Girls Club of the Upstate invited Ron and I over to teach the game.

For the first day of the workshop Ron and Jonas helped the kids brainstorm team names and logos. For the second day I taught the game to the “Santos” and the “Great Whites.” On the last day of the workshop the kids wore team shirts and played the first postball game outside of Delaware.

What occurred in Delaware, occurred in Spartanburg. The enthusiasm and thrill for the game was real. The children took their ever-changing roles in the game seriously. In English and Spanish, they chattered about technique. They yelled at each other to field and run. Other children gathered around the edges of the black top. They waved signs with Santos or Great White logos on them- they yelled support for their favorite teams.

Jonas spoke to me about those kids. They were black, white and Latino kids from broken families, trailer parks and foster homes. In essence, they were no different than me, when I was their age. In hindsight I see how the game translated so easily. What began as a way for me to escape within–provided a momentary means of escape without–for a dozen kids over 600 miles from my childhood home.

I will admit, that sometimes I daydream about professional athletes playing postball one day. I picture public courts popping up across the country. I put up with the standard delusions of grandeur, which harass any creator of “the next big thing.” Yet, if providing a means for escape to those children (who need it the most) is my only accomplishment–then I count myself a success.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Postball in Spartanburg

  1. sara

    I’m not a professional athlete, but I’d love to play postball if you ever come back to Spartanburg! Great meeting you!

  2. Ahlen

    Cool. I’m sure we’ll be down again.

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