Project 5 * Boxing and Unboxing
Boxing and Unboxing took place following an invitation for a research residency invitation extended to AND Publishing by Marabouparken konsthall in Stockholm in 2018. This page tracks in a compact way the single steps AND Publishing (Rosalie Schweiker, Eva Weinmayr) undertook to set up and carry out this collaborative project. I review and reflect on the project's process and the findings in chapter 05*Reflection, theorization of projects.
- 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, Hallonbergen
- 8 AND Boxing classes
- 9 AND Unboxing Talks
- 10 Pages from AND Boxing and Unboxing Calendar, AND Publishing London, Marabouparken konsthall Stockholm, 2018
Starting point and context: Marabouparken Guestroom Programme
The Marabouparken konsthall's Guestroom program "Acts of Self Ruin," curated by Jenny Richards, sets out to explore the struggle for collectivity and equality in an age of individualism. The program's purpose was to support artist groups or collectives in developing new lines of inquiry and to share these with diverse publics through workshops and events.
Marabouparken’s Research Theme (2017–19) 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 invitation through. How can collectivity and community be built during a temporary residency? By definition, residencies dislocate a contextual and locally embedded practice to "take residence" in a new community. As artist Jeanne van Heeswijk, who developed several long-term and large-scale projects to "radicalize the local" ([Assembled]) pointed out in a talk at HDK-Valand in 2017, projects aiming at meaningful community-building require at least a three-year commitment.
So how could we potentially embark on a residency, develop new strands of practice and work meaningfully with the local community in this case? 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-identifying women as part of this residency.
AND Questions Poster
The poster 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. "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?" The poster was published on Marabouparken's website and exhibited as A0 poster in the exhibition space.
AND terms and conditions of working with institution
The document specifying the terms and conditions was an evolving text, informed by a dialogue between curator Jenny Richards and AND. This document was revised several times throughout the residency. It laid the foundations for the collaboration, articulating the expectations of the institution as well as those of the invited artists. It was agreed, for example, that the artists would be visible on their own terms. This stipulation requests that the institution consult the artists as to how this project is to be made public through social media and press releases.
This clause paid attention to the fact that institutions can at times co-opt and frame artistic work in line with their own templates and secured control of what is made visible and what not. The terms and conditions document provided protection against enforced compromise, potentially driven by institutional requirements for publicness and publicity. One of the main conversations between AND and Marabouparken konsthall was how the "development of a new strand of practice" could or should be articulated and publicized before the actual practice unfolds. The problem addressed here refers to previous experiences when the framing that occurs prior to the project taking place, through for example, its description, determine what is conceivable (or not) later on. 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 self-defence. The posters stated that the boxing classes were free and open to 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 that shape our living and working together. They were distributed in community and art centers, libraries, and schools in the adjacent neighbourhoods of Sundbyberg and Hallonbergen, and across Stockholm.
AND Unboxing Room
AND shipped a pile of boxes to Marabouparken konsthall to be unboxed during the residency. The boxes contained ephemera, publications and documents AND has been working on and miscellaneous items related to AND's projects and inquiries. The initial plan of setting up the AND Unboxing Room in the main gallery space of the konsthall was altered because (i) it was hard to escape the somewhat rigid framing of the exhibition context and (ii) Anna Adahl’s neighboring video installation’s soundscape had a potentially transgressive effect on the work (iii) there was no daylight in the gallery space. These were limitations that did not allow us to set up a welcoming and informal space in the main galleries for both the public and ourselves to spend time with the materials. Therefore we moved out of the gallery and into the archive space in the administration wing of Marabouparken konsthall. Visitors were guided by konsthall staff through their offices to the AND Unboxing Room. The invitation reads:
"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 T-shirts and hoodies for the boxers attending the training sessions, and these proved to be popular elsewhere. Printed with the boxing glove collages (used in the posters) combined with the slogan "Box me in – no thank you," borrowed from Rhani Lee Remedes' "SCUB Manifesto" (Society for Cutting Up Boxes, 2002) they serve both as garment and as an (extended) publication.
Host: Project Playground, Hallonbergen
The choice of where the boxing classes should be held seemed crucial. Locating the training sessions within the premises of Marabouparken konsthall would most likely frame the activity as artistic, performative work. It could also be read as some kind of cool gallery outreach program. Project Playground, an after school club for young refugees in Stockholm's Hallonbergen district, was interested in promoting more activities for girls and offered to host the boxing training sessions.
AND Boxing classes
The boxing classes took place every other day for a period of two weeks and were taught by Stockholm-based boxers Sofia Thorne and Airin Fardipour. Both are active in the Stockholm female boxing scene but had not much previous coaching experience. The project was then a new adventure for both the trainers (to develop a two-week intensive course for beginners) and the trainees (to start learning boxing). From the perspective of those of us learning to box, having two coaches was significant, as the authority of "the instructor" had been split across two instructing minds, bodies, voices, and sets of abilities and expertise. This also helped solving problems with communication, as Sofia and Airin ran bilingual classes, with Airin translating Sofia's Swedish instructions into English.
The number of trainees varied between 20 coming to the first training unit and leveled out over time to a group of 10–12 boxers in the subsequent sessions. Sofia and Airin taught many techniques, including a basic set of moves and punches, as well as extensive sparring and body contact work. The classes started with warm-ups, followed by rehearsing footwork and punches, performing defense moves, and sparring with different partners. The classes often concluded with cardio fitness and fika (Swedish for snacks) in the "girls room."
AND Unboxing Talks
One element of AND's contract with Marabouparken konsthall was to hold a series of public talks or workshops during the residency. These scheduled events served to connect to a wider community in Stockholm – beyond the participants in the boxing sessions. Curator Jenny Richards served as a link with local cultural workers invested in similar topics, such as publishing as artistic practice, intersectional feminism, queer, 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." The questions on the poster were the starting point for this talk, which took place in a range of public and non-public spaces inside the konsthall and its surroundings: the gallery, the staff kitchen, AND's Unboxing Room, in the green of the surrounding 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. 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 participants of the boxing training to reflect on their experiences during the boxing sessions as a relational, nonverbal, and bodily dialogue that transgressed the boundaries that we usually seek to protect. Retaining the idea of nonverbal dialogue, this reflection happened through images, drawings, and 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 was 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 to warming up exercises and an introduction to basic boxing techniques. The visuals in the calendar are contextualized by a text written by Ar Parmacek, an intern at Marabouparken konsthall at the time. Ar reflects on the concerns and observations in her role as a co-organizer and observer. In contrast to a book on the shelf, a calendar – on the wall or on the table – 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.