Hoop Gardens was a commissioned installation in the summer of 2006 in Washington Square Park, New York City. The project developed from a Project for Public Spaces report for the Washington Square Park Council that listed sports facilities as the most desired and lacking element of the park. As well, the triangular grass spaces carved out by the radial footpaths were the least used areas of the park. A game was the perfect solution for both engaging the space and bringing physical activity to the park. The idea to put basketball on grass was influenced by lawn tennis, and also by the scorching hot conditions of New York City blacktops in the summer. A site specific game called Lawn Basketball was developed in the triangular space; three teams competed against each other at the same time on three hoops using two balls.
The idea of three teams playing each other is meant to challenge the often simplistic model of one-on-one competition presented by modern sports. One of the main and accurate criticisms of sports is that they symbolize an us versus them, black and white mentality that gives refuge to neo-fascist ideology. One just has to look at English football supporter clubs, or American football in general, to confirm this link. Three teams playing against each other discards this notion, presenting a more challenging yet accurate ritual system that reflects the multifaceted environment of competition and power ( if that’s what you’re into). Hoop Gardens also successfully proved the hypothesis that competitive desire trumps fashion sense (as if professional sports hadn’t proved this already). Grown men and women, starved of fun, competitive outlets, gladly suited up for the garden themed Butterfly, Sunflower and Tomato teams, each with their own Hawaiian board shorts, to battle it out on the lawn of Washington Square. Hoop Gardens also marked the introduction of the Institute’s man on the microphone, Mike McDonald. Surprisingly, my grandmother’s priest saw footage of Hoop Gardens and decided the activity would be suitable for a church picnic. The Institute obliged, creating new teams worthy of the ecclesiastical affair: the Cardinals, Saints, and Padres.