‘Box Clever USA’, Faisal Abdu’Allah
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.