Boxing and Unboxing
- 1 Starting point and context: Marabouparken Guestroom Programme
- 2 AND Questions Poster
- 3 AND terms and conditions of working with institution
- 4 AND set of poster announcement
- 5 AND Unboxing Room
- 6 AND Boxing Gear
- 7 Host: Project Playground
- 8 AND Boxing classes
- 9 AND Unboxing Talks
- 10 Pages from AND Boxing and Unboxing Calendar, AND Publishing London/MarabouParken Konsthall, Stockholm, 2018
- 11 Notes
Starting point and context: Marabouparken Guestroom Programme
The Marabouparken Konsthall's Guestroom program "Acts of Self Ruin", curated by Jenny Richards, has been informed by Leela Ghandi's book "The Common Cause" and set out to explore the struggle for collectivity and equality in an age of individualism. The program aimed to support artist groups or collectives to develop new lines of inquiry and share these with diverse publics through workshops and events.
Marabouparken’s Research Theme (2017-2019) was described on its website as:
- Through a range of activities including exhibitions, residencies, and a public program, we will explore acts in which communities and individuals have put themselves at risk or ruin in the pursuit of other ways of living, or in pursuit of equality and solidarity. Acts that might produce shame or embarrassment in their deviation from existing hierarchies: acts of communal inefficiency of professional disloyalty, of solidarity with a persecuted colleague or the rejection of national identity. The research investigates not only overtly public political acts but also personal acts of self ruin. In what ways do we unlearn the encouraged subconscious individualistic ideology and its inherent classist, racist and sexist perpetuations? Acts of Self Ruin is a concept explored by Leela Gandhi in her book The Common Cause (2014) and informs this inquiry. The book proposes different forms of solidarity and community developed through acts of self-ruination. Acts aimed at making common the cause between individuals across cultural, political and class divides.
Major concerns dawned on us while thinking this through. How can collectivity be made thriving by inviting for temporary residencies? By definition, residencies dislocate a contextual and locally embedded practice in order to take residence in a new community. As artist Jeanne van Heeswijk, who developed several long-term and large-scale community-embedded projects, such as 'Philadelphia Assembled', pointed out in a public talk at Valand Academy in 2017: Projects aiming at meaningfully community building need at least a three-year commitment. 
So how could we potentially approach a residency, develop new strands of practice and work meaningfully with the local community – which was after all the desire clearly expressed by the Konsthall's curators? We started with (i) a set of questions, (ii) a draft document developing the terms and conditions of the collaboration with the institution and (iii) the idea to organize boxing classes for self-defining women as part of this residency.
AND Questions Poster
Annotated by rs
The set of questions assembled our doubts, questions, and interests on one page. It reflects our individual voices as well as our concerns with our collaborative practice within AND. Here is a glimpse at the list of points: "What does it mean to understand our work not as a noun but as a verb?" "Why do we NOT want a unified face?" "How can we subvert the social pressure to produce faces?" and "Who gives in? Who compromises? Who accommodates? Who cares? Who edits? Who organizes? Who translates? Do we need a new, less tired and exclusive language to talk about all of this? And how do you document laughter?" It was published on the website and exhibited as A0 poster in the exhibition space
AND terms and conditions of working with institution
The text specifying the terms and conditions was an evolving document, informed by a dialogue between curator Jenny Richards and AND that has been revised several times throughout the residency. Laying the basis for this collaboration it articulated the expectations of the institution as well as those of the invited artists. It stated for example that the artists will be visible on their own terms. This is a stipulation that requests that the institution consults the artists as to how this project is to be made public through social media and press releases, as well as the way in which encounters with a general public are created. These agreements paid attention to the fact that institutions at times tend to co-opt and frame artistic work according to their habits and templates. It discusses how to make the budget transparent and refers to the potential and limitations of short-term public engagements. The terms and conditions document provided some freedom and some kind of protection against enforced compromise potentially driven by institutional requirements for publicness and publicity and served as the basis for the contract between the artists and the institution. One of the main conversations was how the "development of a new strand of practice" should or even can be framed or be made visible before the actual practice unfolds. The problem addressed here is that often the framing articulated prior to the doing shapes what is conceivable or not. We were keen to leave this as open as possible.
AND set of poster announcement
A set of four posters were printed and circulated. Translated into Swedish, English, Arabic and Tigrinya they announced two weeks of boxing training for women, girls, trans and non-binary people in order to learn more about non-verbal negotiation, care, anger, dialogue, transgressions and defence. The posters stated that the boxing classes were free and open for all abilities, ages (16+), shapes and religions and were an experiment to learn to relate to each other and to negotiate the many conflicts and contradictions which shape our living and working together and were distributed in community centres, libraries, art centres and schools in the imminent neighbourhood Sundbyberg, in Hallonbergen and across Stockholm.
AND Unboxing Room
AND brought a pile of boxes to Marabouparken Konsthall in order to unbox them during their residency. The boxes contain publications they have worked on, documents, which they want to investigate and miscellaneous items related to their projects and inquiries. The initial plan to set up the AND Unboxing room in the gallery space of Marabouparken Konsthall did not work, because (i) it was hard to escape the stiff framing of an exhibition, (ii) in the main gallery space was a video installation by Anna Adahl with a transgressive soundscape, (iii) there was no daylight in the room. Due to these limitations to set up a welcoming and informal space in the main galleries that is inviting us and the public to spend the time, we moved out of the gallery and into the archive space in the administration wing of Marabouparken Konsthall. Visitors found information about the Unboxing Room at the entrance of the museum and were guided by Konsthall staff through the offices to the AND Unboxing Room:
Annotated by rs
"You are welcome to explore AND’s projects and publications* in this Unboxing Room, to unbox yourself, or come to one of the public unboxing afternoons at the Konsthall. AND wants you to unbox the many boxes surrounding us, including the boxes they have shipped to Marabouparken from London. These boxes contain many publications, documents, and miscellaneous items they have collected, made and worked with: The Piracy Project, Teaching for people who prefer not to teach, The Library of Omissions and Inclusions, Let’s Mobilize: What is Feminist Pedagogy?, A selection of good and bad sports bras (D cup and upwards), Keep It Complex, as well as our terms and conditions, emails and other miscellaneous items."
AND Boxing Gear
We produced merch, T-shirts and hoodies, for the boxers attending the training sessions that were printed with collages from the posters combined with the slogan "Box me in - no thank you", borrowed from Rhani Lee Remedes' SCUB Manifesto (Society for Cutting Up Boxes), published in LTTR in 2002.
Host: Project Playground
The choice where to hold the boxing classes seemed crucial. Locating the training sessions within Marabouparken Konsthall would most likely frame the activity as artwork or performance, or be read as some kind of cool outreach program. In order to free the project from the cultural capital and enclosing mechanisms of the art context, the training was hosted by an after school club for youth refugees in Stockholm's Hallonbergen district which was keen to instigate more activities for females at their center.
AND Boxing classes
For the boxing classes, we invited Stockholm based boxers Sofia Thorne and Airin Fardipour to develop a two-week intensive course for beginners. Sofia and Airin were both active in the Stockholm female boxing scene but had not much previous experience as coaches. Thus, this project was a new adventure for the trainers as well as for the trainees. From the perspective of us learners, it was significant to have two coaches, since the authority of "the instructor" had been split across two instructing minds, bodies, voices, and sets of abilities and expertise. It also solved the problem of language, as Sofia and Airin ran the classes bi-lingually in Swedish and English with Airin translating Sofia´s instructions into English. Scheduled as a two-weeks intensive training program with boxing classes run every other day, the classes taught lots of technique, the basic moves and punches, as well as extensive sparring and body contact work and finished with a one-round fight competition on the last day. The number of trainees varied between twenty coming to the first training unit and leveled out over time to a group of 10-12 boxers in the subsequent sessions. The classes started with warm-ups, followed by rehearsing footwork and punches, learning defense moves, sparring with changing partners and the sessions often concluded with cardio fitness and subsequent fika (Swedish for snacks) in the "girls room".
AND Unboxing Talks
Part of AND's agreement with Marabouparken Konsthall was to hold a series of public talks, conversations, and workshops during the residency. These scheduled talks were moments to connect to a wider community in Stockholm - beyond the immediate participants in the boxing sessions. Curator Jenny Richards was connecting us to local people working on similar topics, such as publishing, feminism, and radical knowledge practices.
Unboxing Talk #1 ––– What does it mean to understand publication not as a noun, but as a verb?From the announcement: "In this talk, Rosalie and Eva are in conversation about their approach to the residency, about the unboxing of their archive, and AND's wider practice." Seeking to answer selected questions on the exhibited poster, we situated the talk in a range of public and non-public spaces inside the Konsthall and its surroundings: the gallery, the staff kitchen, AND's Unboxing Room, the park. This itinerant format was an attempt to move from the formal roles and settings of an "artist talk" to a more informal and socially productive format.
Unboxing Talk #2 ––– Authoring, Not-authoring, De-authoring
From the announcement: "Rosalie and Eva will surprise each other with two short presentations on ownership and authorship – they don't know what each other will be presenting – followed by a discussion trying to unpick the experiences and tensions between the individual and the collective when it comes to working collectively – followed by ice-cream in the park."
From the announcement: "The last UNBOXING event with AND publishing is an active workshop: We will produce a ‘how to box and unbox’ guide. AND has invited their boxing teachers Airin Fardipour and Sofia Thorne to work with them on images of different boxing positions and exercises, which we will collage with instructions and reflective writing. For this UNBOXING event we are inviting back all the participants of the boxing classes in June, but it is also open to the curious who have never boxed before."
This workshop provided an opportunity for the boxers to reflect on the experiences during the boxing sessions as a relational, nonverbal, and bodily dialogue transgressing the boundaries that we normally seek to protect. In the same spirit as the non-verbal dialogue during the boxing session, this reflection happened through images, drawings, slogans, using pens, scissors and glue rather than words.
Pages from AND Boxing and Unboxing Calendar, AND Publishing London/MarabouParken Konsthall, Stockholm, 2018
This calendar has been published by AND with the collages produced by the participants of the boxing classes. The visuals revisit the spirit, the experiences and conflicts during the boxing classes. It includes a step by step guide of warming up exercises and an introduction to basic boxing techniques. The visuals in the calendar are contextualised by a text written by Ar Parmacek, an intern at MarabouParken Konsthall at the time. Ar reflects concerns and observations in her role as a co-organiser and observant. In contrast to a book on the shelf, a calendar is a publication genre that accompanies the reader day by day and therefore embeds its topics and visuals into the everyday life of the reader: a year of daily boxing and unboxing.
Thanks to Jenny Richards and Marabouparken Konsthall Stockholm, Project Playground Hallonbergen for hosting the boxing classes, our boxing teachers Airin Fardipour and Sofia Thorne and all the boxers who came to the workshop and made collages for this calendar.
- Jeanne van Heeswijk is an artist who facilitates the creation of dynamic and diversified public spaces in order to “radicalize the local.” Her long-scale community-embedded projects question art’s autonomy by combining performative actions, discussions, and other forms of organizing and pedagogy in order to enable communities to take control of their own futures.
- For example, we had a say in Facebook posts, email invitations, website announcements, and which images to use.
- See Ar Parmacek's reflection on the gendered interior design of the youth club, in "Boxing and Unboxing Calendar", London: AND Publishing, Stockholm Marabouparken Konsthall, 2018