Rumble in the Jungle
Not every performance is a boxing match and not every boxing match is a performance, and sometimes the moment prior to a fight is the moment prior to a performance.
Before he went on to beat George Foreman in the historically stylised and legendary fight, Muhammad Ali alias Cassius Clay had already become the legend demonstrating that personal integrity can bring about a change on the political scale. Muhammad Ali did not only refuse to be drafted into the US military during the time of the Vietnam war (for which he was arrested facing a charge of up to five years in prison), he was also among the first prominent black Americans who converted to Islam. Ali became a role model and his persona always represented the socially marginalised group. Nevertheless, up to that point in time, boxing had rarely become such a spectacle (bread and circuses to the masses) and issue of political debate. This could not even be altered by the excessive, close-toparody theatrics and the massive pre-fight media build-up most poignantly expressed in phrasing the fight “The Rumble in the Jungle”.
Cláudia Dias’ Performance cannot be labelled any of the above. Although, her performance shares the same qualities as the boxing match in that it boldly addresses the need to confront the future upright and fearlessly. The Portuguese performer tells a story about her own experience as an artist who was suddenly stripped of her livelihood. In Portugal like in many other countries, state funding was cut and discontinued due to the global economic crisis. How is one meant to cope with this financial and social crisis, with this European misery? Which actions, strategies or measures were and are to be taken? All a matter of survival! All to be resolved with the right amount of training, one might think.
Unlike a real boxing fight, Dias’ performance is rather more like a training match. She tones down the motif of boxing to a placatory degree where it reveals itself to be what it really is: a symbolical ritual of negotiations. The corporeal presence seeks and produces intimacy while it is also kept at a respectful distance. Thereby, the performer reveals her mastery of performative intricacies. Toward the end of the performance, she even gives the boxing ring the atmosphere of a dance floor hosting a lovers’ dance. Are these gestures extracted from boxing or simply performative additions emphasizing the textual structure which introduces another layer of meaning? How do spoken text and boxing action relate to one another? At times, they seem to be mutually dependent and to stimulate each other, but other times, they also appear to remain unaffected by one another. But, the performance constantly poses the question of: Do you suppose we are at the right place? Does the ideal place for discussing relevant, controversial social issues even exist? Where is this place? There is room to doubt oneself, but the only appropriate actions one can take in this struggle are resisting, demonstrating, demanding participation and fighting.
If this performance represents only the first instalment of a seven-part series, one might as well ask oneself which instruments the artist will choose next time to fight for survival. We can only hope she will be able to sustain this level of engagement. Not in order to win but to continue fighting – thus the motto: not every performance is a boxing match and not every boxing match is a performance, and sometimes the moment after the fight is the moment after the performance.
Andreas Krištof born 1970 in Hof (Carinthia), studied art history at Karl-Franzens-University Graz. From 2000 to 2009, he worked as curator for contemporary art and design at MAK (Österreichisches Museum für angewandte Kunst/Gegenwartskunst). Since 2009, he has been part of the curatorial collective section.a.
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