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.