HS Projects commissioned ‘Box Clever USA’, a collaborative project between Faisal Abdu’Allah and Fords Gym, Madison Wisconsin that looks at the more philosophical side of pugilism. It separates the aggression, money and bravado that is commonly associated with the industry while capturing the solitude and serenity experienced by boxers. It offers an alternative mode of thinking and encourages young people to be an inspiration to their community; while also documenting the personal experiences of young people who are following the well trodden path of sport as a route to a better life.
During the course of the workshops, Faisal worked with young people who told very different stories about their approach to boxing through the camera lens in the confines of a corner of Fords Gym and in the middle of their workouts. At the heart of the project is Andrea Nelson, an ex-professional female fighter and Bob Lynch who coached two Olympic teams and managed the flyweight WBO Champion Eric Morrel, who have acted as mentors for the young people.
Dimarco, a Golden Glove winner from California who has a slim, wiry and lean figure and comes with incredible hand speed and precision, models his persona on Floyd Mayweather, but without the bravado. He is a man of few words and was intrigued by ‘Box Clever USA’, because he was able to see how human hands could be used in a different way, to create art.
Chris Ousley, ‘Golden Gloves’ AKA ‘Best in the Midwest’ is the prized asset of Fords Gym. Ousley exemplifies the essence of Box Clever USA, he demonstrates the difference between fighters and boxers. Ousley being the latter, quick, witty, stylish and technically flawless, he is full of creativity and beguilement. Ousley’s mind is always calculating the next move. Working to the concept of inside out, Ousley wanted the viewer to walk in his shoes and sense the decision making in those critical moments. He also took the photographs of participant Marcus Chancel, capturing the solitude and serenity experienced by boxers.
Marcus Chancel at the time was preparing to participate in the first round of the Golden Gloves 2015. In between the warm ups and bag work, he grabs the camera and emphasises key objects and symbols for him at Fords. The Ringside buzzer he photographs is the electronic time keeper and peace keeper, a small black box that beeps at three minute intervals.
‘Box Clever USA’ is a discourse in the arts of pugilism where the understanding of physics is paramount to have for balance and movement; a comprehension of music, for the rhythm and repetition of movements; an in-depth understanding of human biology to target human pressure points to beat your ‘live opponent’; and most importantly an awareness of space, to operate and make things happen.
‘Box Clever USA’ was partnered through the University of Wisconsin’s community outreach and engagement programme and funded by the Insight Community Arts Programme (2002 – 2015).
The project ran from June to December 2015.
HS Projects curated its first major group exhibition, ‘Interchange Junctions’, at 5 Howick Place. The exhibition examines contested cultural and political histories, which carry special resonance at Howick Place, named after Viscount Howick (later 2nd Earl Grey) one of the main architects of the Reform Act 1832, Catholic emancipation and the abolition of slavery in the British Empire.
‘Interchange Junctions’ follows on from Yinka Shonibare’s permanent commission ‘Wind Sculpture’, a site specific response to the history of the area and continues Shonibare’s focus on themes of colonialism, trade, and race, employing the artist’s signature use of batik Dutch wax fabric designs which have become synonymous with African identity.
The artists in the exhibition have been invited to create a dialogue with Yinka Shonibare’s ‘Wind Sculpture’, with the multi-cultural aspect of the exhibition paying homage to the enlightened actions carried out in the name of Howick. Through a range of media from film, animation, sculpture, collage, photography, drawing, painting and performance, the artists seek to explore cultural frameworks and issues of identity and how we negotiate these through the historical legacy of our collective past and our ever evolving multi-cultural global world.
‘Interchange Junctions’ offers the opportunity to experience a number of new works and site specific commissions as well as works that have not been shown in London before. Ideas of mobility, memory and transmission, migration, trade and colonial struggle are explored along with notions of social awareness and engagement. Misinterpretation and misplacement of accepted norms from one culture to another are part of a discourse on friction between cultures, identity and cultural belonging. Notions of power, success and failure run through the exhibition challenging long held assumptions.
Participating artists: Faisal Abdu’Allah, Larry Achiampong, Faig Ahmed, Alice Anderson, Shiraz Bayjoo, David Blandy, Phoebe Boswell, Jessie Brennan, Fiona Curran, Corinne Felgate, Rose Finn-Kelcey, Romuald Hazoumè, Rob Kesseler, Alex Lawler, Alan Magee, Jade Montserrat, Alida Rodrigues, Zineb Sedira, Shahzia Sikander, Yinka Shonibare MBE, Michelle Ussher, Andy Wicks and BA(Hons) Ceramic Design Central Saint Martins students (Lucy Anderson, Sarah Christie, Yung Cheuk Chung, Srabani Ghosh, Ziynet Hidiroglu, Ellis Hooson, Sun-a Kim, Friedrich Ly Thien Co, Jessica Martin, David McQuire, Megan Niell, Niamh Philips, Jose Salgrado De Lacerda, Harriet Sennett, Sandra Stallard, Akville Zukauskaite).
During the closing event of 19th June, there was a rap performance by David Blandy and Larry Achiampong who under the alias ‘Biters’, examined the possibility for truthful, authentic experience via the popular cultures that have influenced them. They investigated what identity might mean in the post-colonial and post-mass media age by crate-digging through history, recycling already-sampled beats and reciting stolen rhymes.
‘Interchange Junctions’ was funded by Invesco Real Estate (IRE) and Urban & Civic, the joint developer behind 5 Howick Place with Doughty Hanson & Co Real Estate.
‘Interchange Junctions’ was at 5 Howick Place, Victoria London, from 10 May – 21 June 2014.