Through the detached and scientific gaze of Andreas Gursky, the real world is rendered in crisp geometrical precision. The white lines of the football pitch in Em Arena II, Amsterdam, executed in 2000, lend the work a formal structure, as does the dominating striped green of the pitch. The footballers, picked out with tiny crosses of shadow by the multitude of lights in the football pitch, appear as coloured specks scattered with varying degrees of symmetry across the arena. Their Subbuteo-like scale and appearance strip them of a vital human context. From this distance, we view them as though through a microscope. They are tiny, dwarfed by the stadium in which they are playing. They appear like tiny insects, Gursky making the world - and human activities within it - appear both absurd and strangely beautiful. He reveals an overarching rhythm and musicality present in everyday life, taking his elevated perspective in order to show the precise ballet of human endeavour, even within popular sport.
The wealth of fine detail in Em Arena II, Amsterdam means that while from a distance the picture appears schematic and almost abstract, on closer inspection the various elements and figures leap into focus. In order to capture this, Gursky makes use of digital technology, weaving together various images and honing down the details to a point of searing precision. In this way, he heightens the tension between the picture's overall reduction to abstraction and its paradoxical wealth of intricate detail: 'Since 1992 I have consciously made use of the possibilities offered by electronic picture processing, so as to emphasize formal elements that will enhance the picture or, for example, to apply a picture concept that in real terms of perspective would be impossible to realize' (A. Gursky, quoted in L. Cooke, 'Andreas Gursky: Visionary (Per)Versions', pp. 13-16, reproduced in Andreas Gursky: Photographs from 1984 to the Present, M.-L. Syring (ed.), exh. cat., Munich 1998, p. 14).