Saturday, August 18, 2007

After Cravan


The modernist agent provocateur Arthur Cravan once argued that his art was superior to Picasso's, because he possessed a boxer's muscled torso and fierce countenance, in contrast to Picasso's caved-in chest, slouched shoulders, and hangdog expression. As far as Cravan was concerned, an artist was defined by his physique and his ability to duke it out with rivals. Such a view wasn't unusual, in the first part of the twentieth century. The Italian Futurist Marinetti celebrated combat as the highest form of aesthetics, and in 1920s Paris Ernest Hemingway sparred with Ezra Pound, in the belief that the art of self-defence was a natural complement to the art of writing.

Now Ellen Portch, the painter and Elam Art School pointyhead who put on a memorable exhibition at Old Government House last year and also found time to design the cover of my first book, is turning Muay Thai kickboxing into an artform. After an intensive training programme at an undisclosed gym, Ellen recently entered the ring for the first time: you can see the results below.
Ellen tells me that:
It was a draw because it was our first fight... had it been contested though it probably would of been a draw anyway, it was very close. It was a VERY good contest & had the punters very entertained. I was very happy to have faced her.

Personally, I favour the Jackson Pollock approach to combat, which boils down to a couple of precepts:

1. Never fight until you are fairly drunk, and your opponent is extremely drunk.

2. Only fight in a bar which is so busy that full-blooded punches, let alone kicks, are practically impossible, and rescue, at the hands of worried friends or disapproving bar staff, is only a few seconds away.

If you want to know more about the aesthetics of combat, keep your eyes peeled for the next issue of brief, which will feature an essay on Ellen's work penned by Deidre Brown.

55 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

it takes guts and commitment to enter the ring - good on you Ellen!

5:04 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the hamish dewe method of fighting:

a. smell trouble coming at a party
b. run toward the nearest couch and collapse over it
c. put yr feet in the air and kick furiously at the approaching assailants

haw haw haw
stephen oliver

5:56 pm  
Blogger Richard Taylor said...

I think it is really a function of intelligence - the higher a person's intelligence the less likely they will to voluntarily enter a boxing ring: as rather than fight - in most cases - a person can use words or often unexpected "moves" to avoid a physical encounter.

There is stupidity about Hemingway (but his abilities as a writer are quite limited) and his worship of Bullfighting and Pound - great poet yes - was in some areas very much a crack pot.

The best weapons are flight or cunning.

Boxing is dangerous and brutal - self defence is no doubt useful to learn - but the image of women boxing is almost obscene to my eyes. It is not the natural role of women.

Judo and some of the martial arts - have less risk and if properly supervised - I can see as being valid...

My father accidentally killed a young man (the British amateur champion -probably light weight - at the time in England) - in a bout - that was before the Second WW. He retained an interest in boxing and (I remember his reactions were very fast) but this would have affected him quite deeply (although he didn't discuss his personal (private) feelings very much on that or any other subject).

Distance can be a valid stance.

Being punched repeatedly in the face or head? Intelligence tells one that that is near where the brain is - perhaps the most complex thing the universe we know of - - and anyone of intelligence, creativity, or sensitivity should greatly value that.

Courage? "Guts"? I equate such glorifications to a lack of imagination.

I admire the work of Portch (it has a certain dramatic/surreal impact) - but this boxing by her I see as simply stupid.

9:39 pm  
Blogger Richard Taylor said...

The point of my response isn't altered whether this is another "stunt", exaggeration, or fabrication of Maps or not BTW.

9:43 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's not Ellen's fault if Richard's old man was a crim.

2:07 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tell me Richard.... what exactly is the 'natural role' of women?

5:06 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Honestly one has to question what this talented painter is trying to prove by taking part in such a barbaric gladiatorial 'sport'. Surely the role of the Artist is to view and present the questions of life from a distant vantage point and not to blindly participate in one of its most grimy mediums. In the past Portch has served us well with her strange elusive paintings and now upon reflection, I like Richard suspect a 'stunt'. Is this art performance? Please tell me this is not a new artistic direction from Porch?
Dan

7:31 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

jiminey cricket, did I come to the 'young conservative christians site' by mistake? dear god Richard, go and rinse your golden hair in aloe and rain, and climb down off your pedestal, daring to judge what is natural for women indeed. It reminds me of a song I heard whilst in the steppes of Lithuania, the old peasant women used to sing it whilst gathering geraniums and chrysanthemums to sell at the local market:'our men have fought for far too long, it's time we taught them pain'. (rough translation). Alexsei.

11:21 am  
Blogger Richard Taylor said...

Terror is the purest emotion.

2:39 pm  
Blogger Richard Taylor said...

BTW all the books on the "competition are wonderful books - there are two or more I don't know or haven't read however. But the rest are all fascinating books.

Wilde's book is good but is perhaps not his greatest work - but it is certainly worth reading.

But Joyce's Ulysses is pivotal to 20th Century literature (but I suppose as a corollary so is Homer's work and so on) - as they say in the trade - 'pivotal' - i.e. it is hingeful of fulcrummomentafull. But not quite fullabullabooleannable!

Where is comrade Dr. Jack Van Ross thse dark cold days?

2:52 pm  
Blogger Richard Taylor said...

I heard that Lithuania was a pretty bloody place to be.

2:54 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I heard that it was far more common to get concussion at an undisclosed art school due to poorly stacked furniture than from kickboxing!

8:08 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought artist were supposed to be open minded.

It is also obvious that those commenting that kickboxing is a barbaric, gladitorial sport do not understand it, and have extreme prejudice.

Here's a challenge to you - get out and try it, or talk to some kickboxers, before you slam it.

8:32 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd like to join Richard Taylor's Holier Than Thou Society. Ellen should know better, when she's not doing her artwork, she should be at home having babies.

8:34 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

no no, she should just focus on her Painting (God knows it needs it)...theres a risk her children might inherit certain violent tendencies.

8:58 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good on you Ellen, it takes great commitment, hard work self-awareness and respect (of self and opponent) to get in the ring!

9:40 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"being punched repeatedly in the face/head" - the point of boxing/kickboxing is to avoid being hit, especially in the head. Thus much of the training is around defence (and for those who actually watched Ellen's fight, hers was particularly good).

9:45 pm  
Anonymous obama said...

I'm all for it. Two chicks slugging it out, all sweaty, grunting, strong thighs, shiny shorts, breast protectors...nice. Bring it on! And she's a cool painter as well, such a well-rounded girl. Her mother's brought her up well!

9:49 pm  
Anonymous Spectator said...

We went to Ellen's fight - her performance suggested she has interests (and skills) outside of her art, so perhaps she did all that training for the sport, fitness, challenge, and fun - perhaps she wasn't there simply to perform for bloggers who have nothing but art and sexism in their universe.

10:15 pm  
Blogger maps said...

I think there are probably important parrallels between Ellen's art and her kickboxing: in both fields discipline, preparation and an intense attention to detail are essential to her success.

The notion that Ellen could simply clip on some gloves and box, as part of some sort of 'stunt', is as absurd as the idea that she could simply pick up a can of paint and a brush and knock out one of the extraordinarily complex, ambiguous images that she exhibited last year.

Richard employs a very different, rather more chaotic, approach to the making of his poetry. His method isn't wrong but, speaking as a long-suffering editor, I do think he could learn a little from Ellen's self-control. I also think he may have forgotten who designed the cover of the book he published earlier this year.

11:55 pm  
Blogger Richard Taylor said...

Portch designed it (I didn't ask her to) but I took the photograph - come on Maps - you are the most chaotic of them all!

On many of my 'works" I have worked very rapidly and intuitively - however that doesn't apply to EYELIGHT.

But I reject this (very dated) concept of "discipline, preparation and an intense attention to detail" - I have overruled that very bourgeois concept with my The Infinite Poem and replaced it with process etc and (amongst other things - the concept that life segues into art etc (that they are always the same).

12:27 am  
Anonymous arts tutor said...

‘… chicks slugging it out, all sweaty, grunting, strong thighs…’you must be talking about the other girl, I see no evidence of this in Portch, I see a delicate pale woman who looks like she would be more at home holding a paint brush rather than ‘slugging’ it out in the boxing arena. As for the ‘parallels’ between art and boxing, I think Maps is over reaching somewhat. To be sure there might be some similarities between boxing ‘training’ and the exercise of painting or any creative process, but to actually fight I would think is an entirely different prospect. Surely discipline and attention to detail does not even enter the picture at the point of combat, but rather the more primal instinct of reflex.

11:52 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's amusing to see all the cowardly, out of shape, out of touch artistes - most of them probably men - being made to feel inferior by Ellen's attempt to put into practice the Greek ideal of excellence in the lhysical and the intellectual spheres of life.

'Surely discipline and attention to detail does not even enter the picture at the point of combat, but rather the more primal instinct of reflex.'

You'd be KO'd in five seconds with an attitude like this. If you lose concentration or respond to anger, you're finished.

12:01 pm  
Anonymous arts tutor said...

No I wouldn’t be KO’d in five seconds; I’d never be so stupid to Box.

One wonders what her students would think of her fighting? Isn’t she one of the last survivors of the Painting discipline in the fine art department (I seem to recall the papers a few years back reporting mass redundancies at the Art School)?

Does portch believe the ring is the only place left one can fight a good fight (I can find no other explanation for this crazy self indulgence- I don't buy the fitness & sports line), why does she not fight for her discipline? Do what Artists do, fight through Art.

1:06 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very interesting blog!

Am I too believe that artists are supposed to be living some sort of convent life, where no worldly influences are allowed in? No sport? No alcohol (or harder substances)? No life?

1:33 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Was Lord Byron a bad poet? He was a good boxer.

1:52 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Someone tell me 'arts tutor' is a parody. 'Crazy self-indulgence'...'would never be so stupid as to...'

Where are you tutoring? Sunday school?

Life without danger = boring art.

3:41 pm  
Anonymous Kickboxer said...

I assure you it's not a stunt. Ellen kicks with the power of a donkey!

7:17 pm  
Blogger Richard Taylor said...

Boxing actually has a beauty to it - I was/am big fan of Mohammed Ali -he was an artist in the ring (and went to jail for refusing to fight in the Vietnam war - (or rather than kill Vietnamese people)...but we should be getting beyond boxing -we know too much now about the danger to the brain (and other organs) hard hitting (despite who skilled or defensive a fighter is) it can cause - and fighting itself is not always wrong - but it is only one alternative in life - we over emphasise violence in our culture - yes Bryon swam the Dardanelles like our own General Freyberg, and he took part in the Italian revolution - Shelley was a -fairly fit man - his things was sailing (he drowned at sea) ...they were all (or most of) (the Romantics) interested in the French and the American Revolutions -in fact Shelley's "Ode to the West Wind" is said to be also a metaphor of the US and other revolutions (the winds) "driving the dead leaves") - but this still leaves me dubious of this image of an artist boxing - boxing has had its time - fencing is safer - there are many such combative sports that better suit an artist.

The great British poet Keith Douglas who died at the end of WW2 was very keen on war and the military from his childhood until his death ... Cravan was strange man who eventually disappeared.

One of the Dadaists.

Everything is getting stranger than a tree.

1:07 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Boxing is not violence.

9:01 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ahh, Richard, I finally see where you are coming from! The class structure!

It is fine for a working-class man to put his body and brain on the line, but not for an elite artist!

9:57 am  
Anonymous obama said...

Phwoar. Can't wait to see Ellen in her fencing outfit.....so sexy!!!

11:21 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

face the fear of a blank canvas , contest the terrror of a roped canvas. brush with red congealed corpses, look up to see defeat in a cerulean sky. Entertain the toxic cadmium -yellow critics - work the middle of the canvas- push adversary to the edge. Make life changing strokes against the confounding roar of the crowd. eschew the frame of reference. Expand on multidiciplinary frameworks in uncompromising technique. Be an artist.
Klicka.

2:51 pm  
Blogger Richard Taylor said...

"Ahh, Richard, I finally see where you are coming from! The class structure!

It is fine for a working-class man to put his body and brain on the line, but not for an elite artist!"

Nonsense. I have never supported that view...but that has to a large extent been the case - but in history all classes have "given" their lives etc Mohammed Ali was from a very tough working class background and was used to real fighting in the street - now - that is reality -but we want a world where - ok there is still conflict and so on - but where we utilise a little intelligence.

But if you can see it all about me as you seem to imply you are better than me - where I am coming from? Where is anyone coming from? What does it mean to say that?

I think the left down play the importance of artists etc but I am not going to romanticise their role.

There is also a danger of romanticising the so called working class - this is a huge area - what is the working class? - What is one's experience of it and so on - this opens cans and cans of worms. Too big.

If Ali had been a white person; and from very rich right wing family of millionaires I would still admire him BUT I am saying hat we need a world where the pressure is less on such as Ali to get heir heads punched - o.k. Ali is wonderful (he for me was the greatest - no question) - but I feel it is time we moved on from boxing. Pugilistic sports and martial arts and the general atmosphere of violence we see portrayed everywhere are not good things - we need more reason - less such stupid violence...I am not saying we eliminate e.g. passion or conflict or "madness" but that we look toward better ways of dealing with life's struggles.

11:09 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought you said judo, fencing and some other martial arts were acceptable...

11:21 pm  
Anonymous arts tutor said...

I agree with Richard, there are much more effective ways of dealing with life’s struggles.
Portch wields that power in the form of her Painting.
She should stick to that.

12:28 pm  
Anonymous obama said...

What an enjoyable blog. Richard Taylor's vacillation. The illiberality of would-be liberals. Now if only Ellen would start oiling her body and go topless, we males would be very happy indeed!

2:08 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Were you that guy who got fined last week for looking cracks in the walls of the female changing rooms at Mission Bay Obama?

3:10 pm  
Anonymous obama said...

No. Ellen doesn't live out that way:)

4:10 pm  
Anonymous obama said...

Taking a more serious note, some of the comments here are disturbing. There are things in this world that I don't agree with e.g. I loathe religion, particularly christianity, to me the most dangerous, damaging and quite frankly ridiculous thing on the planet. However, I would always fight (no, not box) for people's right to indulge.

Here. we have some criticising Ellen's painting (quite uncalled for), some telling her that she shouldn't be kick-boxing for whatever reasons, and others saying that she should be putting those feelings into her painting.

The arrogance is unbelievable. Ellen is obviously passionate about both painting and kick-boxing. Surely it is up to her what she is involved in. The juxtaposition of art and kick-boxing is probably unusual, but why isn't that good? Why not admirable?

Some here seem to think that they have some claim over Ellen, some right to tell her what she should be doing. You don't! Why not just admire and respect what she has achieved?

(And she does look cute in that getup, doesn't she!).

5:39 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Klicka , you've so eloquently put kickboxing and art in their place (together).
Nicely done, once again.

Dear Richard,
Oh please, when has art ever had to be anything to do with being virtuous or of moral superiority apart for it's own self-gratification or political benefit?

Doesn't discipline derive from practicing (which is a virtuous act), hence ones' Practice.
All societies need a level of bloodletting of sorts, a releasing of excessive energies. Be it in art or kickboxing.


On the topic of excessive energies obama there's only a couple of days till the erotica expo here in Auckland,. but if you can't hold on till then it couldn't be all that hard to find an adult chatroom here on the web to your liking.

6:44 pm  
Anonymous obama said...

I think you're slightly missing the point :)

7:07 pm  
Anonymous Kickboxer said...

Hey Richard, have you considered that maybe it is you that has started this as a "performance art" stunt?

The amount of awareness and controversy you have raised over kickboxing, and an artists' right to be involved is amazing. If you had not written such inflamatory comments about Portch, maybe this whole epidode may have passed. However, it has become a topic of interest for an increasing number of people.

Thanks for the forum to talk about what it means to be a kickboxer!

8:20 pm  
Anonymous Kickboxer fan said...

Good on you Kickboxer, such a great idea to set up a kickboxing forum….

I enjoyed the Nixon Portch Fight, what a fast & furious fight- the girls really went for it. I really liked that it was an even fight, the even ones are the most exciting. Portch came out strong in the first round, good hands and some of her kicks really did the job late on in the round. Nixon connected with some kicks in the second & came back strongly in the third. Such a good old fashioned tussle!

Good news about Doug Viney in Vegas!

11:49 pm  
Blogger Richard Taylor said...

"Kickboxer said...

Hey Richard, have you considered that maybe it is you that has started this as a "performance art" stunt?

The amount of awareness and controversy you have raised over kickboxing, and an artists' right to be involved is amazing. If you had not written such inflamatory comments about Portch, maybe this whole epidode may have passed. However, it has become a topic of interest for an increasing number of people.

Thanks for the forum to talk about what it means to be a kickboxer! "

I probably did start it I have different views of everything constantly - I have no fixed views - for me everything is in flux and everything is possible. Vacillation is not the right term BTW Osama - but nor is it the wrong term. Maybe it is excellently just the right term. (But can we have or allow such possible exactness such in this Postmoderen era?)

I see beauty and ugliness and neutrality in everything - I got very excited seeing the twin towers being destroyed (but WERE they destroyed?) - at that time I was pretty apathetic to politics and that kind of shocked me awake (what marvelous possibilities!!) but I got great a kick out of it - like Stochausen I saw it as a great work of art. I simultaneously saw it as an outrage and a tragedy and a "political statement" and (possibly a jack up by the US) - but whatever also a wonderful thing - very strange I am or things happening to me are very strange perhaps... Rather like the perverted or inverted logic in Genet's novels.

I believe in process. Look at my EYELIGHT Blog.

I change my views of things constantly (I seem to always find a refutation to whatever I say or others say and then a refutation to that ad infinitum - a bit like analysing
chess games which I do all the time) - I suppose I do believe in some things but I am not sure what those things are...

One can only be certain of one's emotional reaction to things - or perhaps one can only be certain of uncertainty... as emotion probably distorts. "The horribleness of human love".

I am very happy right now.

BTW Remember that I have known Maps for years and he does make up a lot - but at the same time some strange things do happen to Comrade Maps - one could allude to the Salt years or the Kevin Ireland incident etc but also one might allude to some of my own "adventures" - Porch is real person as I met her and I saw her big painting (it is excellent - very impressive) which in facsimile and bit changed by its background colour - adorns the cover of Maps's book "To the Moon.." See the link to Titus Book.

12:32 am  
Anonymous KIckboxing fan said...

Fantastic news about Doug! Great to see a local boy succeed on the world stage. Yet another success story for Balmoral lee gar gym and legend trainer Lollo Heimuli.

I liked the girls fight too (good to see support in the form of Lollo in Ellen’s corner), but the best fight of the night was the Oscar Batucan (balmoral lee gar) Vs Rex Radford bout. Wow! Nice to see the shorter (by a lot!!) fighter come out on top. Oscar was fast, closed the gap, did the job with nice hand combinations finished with a kick and then got out of range before Rex could do any damage. Fantastic.

I also enjoyed watching Ben Parkin (also out of Balmoral lee gar)…nice and technical.

Can’t wait to see some other Balmoral boys fight soon, next month with full Thai rules we’ll see Shannon Foreman and Simon “Spike” Chamberlain perform. If you want to see GREAT ART watch these guys!!!

12:49 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

is anyone else bored by Richard Taylor?......... is Ellen really real ?..... hmmmmmm.......the great questions of life.

1:04 am  
Anonymous KIckboxing fan said...

Ask Gaela Nixon if Ellen is real

1:09 am  
Anonymous yet another Damn Kickboxer said...

re: "The masses be damned"

poor Maps :( Kept him up during the wee small hours.... its just that "After Cravan" has become such a great new sport forming 'a deeply engaging and compelling spectacle'-

of course "After Cravan" has it's own Tyson figure (bizarre pronouncements....etc etc) no points for guessing who that might be.

oooops.... should I have posted this comment on "The Masses be Damned" ?

sorry Maps, youre a great Promoter ;)

ps cute picture

7:38 am  
Anonymous Muay Thai Fan said...

Does anyone (Maps?) know when Ellens next fight is?
Cheers

8:06 am  
Anonymous kickboxing fan said...

Yes the squirrel is cute…and being left handed he has the tactical advantage. His wall is VERY good, no need for that headgear …bet he kicks arse for nuts (although the street is no place for a fight)

12:40 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd like to see Ellen meet Gaela in the ring again, with knees allowed in the rules. Would be an impressive fight, with such well matched opponents!

4:07 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are ALL sad, sick LOSERS.

7:33 pm  
Anonymous bemused kickboxer said...

I expect Ellen is delighted to see that last posting,
for once she’s not the one being accused of being a sad, sick loser.

9:19 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ellens next fight:
November 3rd 2007.
Queenstown

10:22 am  

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