“And er, eventually things got so bad that I was forced into professional boxing.
Er, in the 1930s things were so bad that you either had to be a thief or try and get some money some other ways if you could, and I, I never, could be a good thief, I’m no good, I’m not that way, so I went in for professional boxing and I was - I had roughly 250 fights.“
Museum of Docklands Recording Project, 1984
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21installation view from two angleswww.gaianova.co.uk14.07. - 18.07.2016 / Goldsmiths University, London
A Boxing Ring traditionally has four corners. One opponent is fighting out of the red corner, the other out of the blue corner. The white corners are not assigned to any of the fighters. In case of a knock-down the referee sends the fighter who is superior at that moment into one of the white corners. The other fighter gets a chance to get back on his feet.
Based on the structure of a Boxing Ring, Polygon sets out to explore the complex relationships between class, community, finance and capital in the context of London's former docklands. It draws parallels between prize fighting in Martial Arts and the constant prize fight in London's property market, while juxtaposing the violent image of (Thai) Boxing with the authority of the financial system.
At the same time it attempts to explore an inverted structure: even though Boxing has a violent image, it is rooted in the social context of the gym. The financial system on the other hand is represented by the slick facades of skyscrapers, expensive suits, guards, surveillance cameras and smooth transport links, yet one could argue that it is rooted in a violent underlaying structure.
Polygon forces you to move: Not unlike a fighter in the ring you have to shift your focus and body posture in accordance with image and sound panning over the screens. The ideas unfold according to your engagement with the piece and with the choices you make while watching it.
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White corner | Fight Zone Gym
Fight Zone Gym
with James Roach (founder and owner of Fight Zone Gym),
José Varela (coach and MTGP World Champion 2015),
and Adetayo Duroshola (competing at Raw Talent / Eastham Working Men's Club, June 2016)
dedicated to all members of the gym
When I first arrived in the East End of London in September 2014, I was struck by the incredible amount of boxing gyms surrounding me. So I decided to leave my own comfort zone and join a gym. I first started Boxing at Peacock Gym close to Canning Town, later I changed to Fight Zone Gym in Bethnal Green. By now I am training three to five times a week. I practice Muay Thai, a traditional form of Martial Arts that has its origin in Thailand. During the last century Muay Thai was heavily influenced by British boxing. Yet unlike Boxers, Muay Thai fighters can make full use of punches, elbows, kicks, knees and clinch work. Today Muay Thai is becoming increasingly popular all over the world.
When you are sparring or when you have a fight you have to be in the present moment: there are no more thoughts about the past or about the future, only what is happening at this very moment is important. Since I am training I also feel much more present in my everyday life, more confident and less worried about the future.
Many people who train at Fight Zone often tell me that they would probably be on the street, shoplifting and dealing drugs if they hadn't joined a gym. Yet next to brick layers, taxi drivers and scaffolders there are also business men, lawyers, designers and artists training at Fight Zone. There is a general sense of belonging, which is quite simple but utopian too: Our individual position within a certain group outside the gym, our roots in a local community, our birth place in a specific country, and our ethnic background do not matter here.
We help each other to improve and we support each other during competitions.
Everybody who trains here is treated the same way.
Daniel Terry V Paul Barber
Muay Thai Grand Prix
Indigo O2 Arena / London, 26.03.2016
Red is the colour of blood, of conflict and of violence, but metaphorically also links to the red corner of the Boxing Ring.
The prize fight of Daniel Terry V Paul Barber during the third Muay Thai Grand Prix at the O2 Arena (North Greenwich, London | 26.03.2016) was broadcasted live on television. The fight was meant to last for five 3min rounds. During the first round Paul Barber received a serious elbow blow to his forehead. For the rest of the fight blood was streaming down his face. The referee stopped the fight toward the end of the fourth round because one of the fighters was unable to continue. Both fighters were in very good shape, their techniques clean and precise.
I filmed the fight from the balcony at a frame rate of 50 frames per second. The video is slowed down by 50%, which is the classic sports slow motion that is commonly used to show replays, i.e. goals in Soccer or knockouts in Boxing.
Boxing emerged alomst 200 years ago in London's former docklands. As a working class phenomenon it can be seen as a response to capitalist exploitation in an industrialized society. Unlike a factory worker the boxer was his own master, relying only on himself and his abilities in the ring. Throughout the 19th century until halfway through the 20th, prize fighting was for many boxers the only alternative to stealing in order to survive the precariousness of the docklands.
In April 2016 I started my research in the Museum of London Docklands on the Isle of Dogs right next to Canary Wharf. The Museum of London kindly allowed me to re-edit some of their historic footage. The subtitles in this video are based on living memory, an interview with Stan Rose (born 1910) who grew up in the docklands and who later went into professional boxing. The voice-over is taken from J.B. Holmes' City of Ships (1938 - 1939). Other titles used in this edit include: London River and Docks (ca. 1920), Pola Fen London (1951) and Port of London (1924).
The two videos that deal with the historic docklands in the white corner and its contemporary counterpart, Canary Wharf in the blue corner, are edited in close relation to each other.
Finance, business and banking district
London's property market
Blue often represents authority. Blue is the colour of royalty and police uniforms in many countries are blue. Here it metaphorically also links to the authority of capital and to the blue corner of the Boxing Ring.
After the decline of London's former docklands in the 1980-ties, Canary Wharf was privatised. It became the UK's most important banking and business district, a development that goes hand in hand with London's spiralling property prizes.
This video consists of slow panning shots of Canary Wharf's clean facades and surveillance cameras, smooth transport links, people in expenive suits and security guards in slow motion. The voice-over is taken from commercial video clips by real estate agents who advertise London's property market, Canary Wharf in particular, on an international level. From an investment point of view the increase of property prizes by almost 40% during recent years is positive, even though it results in the segregation and displacement of London's working class further and further beyond the outskirts of town.
When I asked a security guard wether I was allowed to film inside Canary Wharf he refused with the remark that my equipment looked too professional. He told me I had to get an official permit from the authorities because Canary Wharf is private property and the rules of the outside world do not always apply.
I was born in 1985. My two brothers and me grew up on the German country side next to the Czech border. Hof, the biggest town in the area, used to be the last train stop before the Iron Curtain. After high school I went to India to do a Voluntary Social Year, during which I worked with mentally disabled people, followed by one and a half years of Philosophy at the ‘Freie Universität’ in Berlin and an internship with ‘Restaurierung am Oberbaum’, where I was involved in the restoration of David Chipperfields ‘Neues Museum’ in Berlin. In 2009 I moved to the Netherlands to study Fine Art at Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam.
When I decided to come to London to do a Masters degree at Goldsmiths University, I soon realized that it was almost impossible for me to afford the rent, the fees, the cost of living and to focus on my studies at the same time without making debts, even though I managed to get a grant from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). I had to find an alternative, a coping strategy, a way to enter the city. My solution was to buy a cheap old van in Germany. I restored it and I converted it into a mobile live/work studio. In August 2014, I drove it to London. With the help of friends I discovered Cody Dock in the London Borough of Newham, where I could safely park.
Officially I am Cody Dock’s first artist in residence.
In my experience, if the system is too rigid to be broken, the only viable option is to find gaps that can be exploited. For example I had to ensure that my van was affordable but still met London’s Low Emission Standards to avoid excessive fines. Generally speaking: one needs to know the rules first in order to navigate them. Yet perhaps even more important than knowing those rules is a network of allies and friends.
To take a stance in the world means to get involved on a personal level, as Georges Didi-Huberman wrote in 2009, in an essay on Harun Farocki’s work: “Lifting one’s thought to the level of anger (the anger provoked by all the violence in the world, this violence to which we refuse to be condemned). Lifting one’s anger to the level of a task (the task of denouncing this violence with as much calm and intelligence as possible).” (How to Open Your Eyes (Harun Farocki: Against What? Against Whom?), edited by Antje Ehmann and Kodwo Eshun (Koenig Books & Raven Row, London, 2009), p.39).
That way indignation becomes a driving force.
The search for new encounters, complicities and alliances describes an attitude which foregrounds an artistic practice that is not defined or limited by a specific medium. I believe that there should be no blueprint, and no recipe. Every project not only has to change its shape in conversation with people, but it also should enter a dialogue with the situation and the circumstances it emerges from. It can be seen as a negotiation perhaps, or a spark that interferes with the structure of the world and that in turn allows others to interact with its complexities and its contradictions - an interplay of action, reaction and reflection.
In September 2016 I graduated with distinction from Goldsmiths University (MFA Fine Art).
April 2015 // 'Arte + Ecología' (Cortijada Los Gázquez / Andalucía, Spain)
March 2012 // 'Creating a Context' (in collaboration with Nosadella.Due and Neon Gallery / Bologna / Italy)
February 2012 // 'Swedish Connection' (Aspnäs, Härnösand / Sweden)
September - October 2011 // 'About the Relationship between Chaos and Silence' (Kolkata / West Bengal, India)
November 2010 - January 2011 // 'Slow Lloyd' (organised by slowLab / Lloyd Hotel, Amsterdam)
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xP O L Y G O N | DANIEL DRESSEL
26.05. - 04.06.2017