El Ring

Julián Álvarez

El Ring documents the scenic and intermedia spectacle that, under the same name, took place in the Mercat de les Flors of Barcelona in 1988. This is a fundamental work for the understanding of the Spanish history of video. In it, Alvarez develops the idea of a boxing match as an exceptional duality. In addition to the dance on stage, the mis-en-scéne and the music, the artist uses a closed circuit television system to capture and then project images of the fight and the breaks in between from different points of view. We are also presented with film documents of historic boxing matches, as well as the image of a woman talking passionately about the sport while massaging a black skinned body. El Ring is an exploration of the duality, the erotics of violence and the technologies of vision, its manipulation and its reception.

El Ring’s structure is that of a boxing match. Flashes of historic matches and the words of a woman as she massages a black boxer are inserted to the rhythm of the movements, blows and changes in position of the two boxers/performers. Alvarez delves into the staging and the representational possibilities of the art of boxing, concentrating it in a monochannel video. This is a research piece premised on the author’s experiments with the decomposition and hybridization of both the media and the institutionalized audiovisual language models.

An allegory is staged in the boxing ring. Here the only options are KO and OK, a dialectic that expands to include other type of dualities (such as ying-yang, contenders in red and black, white masseuse massaging a black body, etc.) in a match between fellow opposites. We are presented with an ideological ambiguity for which rivalry is not equivalent to hostility, but rather the former explains the latter, there are rules to its fighting game.

This piece is an open reflection on violence as a sport, in which the technologies of vision are used as a narcissistic fighting system. At the same time that we are being presented with the images of the dance-fight between the boxers from different angles, we notice in the monitors on the corners of the ring the images being recorded by two small cameras attached to the right glove of each boxer. These are prostheses, or bodily extensions, that capture each contender from the other’s gaze, as well as one’s own image as if on a mirror. Technological and plastic resources which introduce the spectator into the blow, into the act itself from the actor’s position: “Images produced by the body in the process of relating to reality.”

In the manner of a formal study of the medium of video itself, the author combines the three fragmented narratives (the boxing match, the archive footage, the massage) into a videographic linearity. The internal dialectic of the video seems to have been limited by the mutation of Mashall McLuhan’s phrase “the medium is the message” into the title of his book The medium is the massage. One medium, the minicamera in the gloved fists of the contenders, as the message of a virile fight. At the same time, the video shows us a massage which tells of the female passion for this sport. Both instances are presented within the context of the historical document, since, according to Barthes, what the public demands is the image of passion, not passion itself.

Technical datasheet

  • Title: El Ring
  • Direction: Julián Álvarez
  • Production: Julián Álvarez. 1989.
  • Team:

    Camaramen: Lalo Garcia - Enrique Navarro
    Lights: Danilo Camagni (Espectáculo show) - Tomas Pladevall (Monólogo)
    Stage design and cosutmes: Pep Duran - Nina Paulowski
    Cast Director: Jordi Mesalles
    Choreography: Francesc Bravo
    Dances-Fighters: Andreu Bresca - Francesc Bravo
    Actress-massage: Xus Estruch
    Text: Javier P. Escohotado
    Original Soundtrack: Victor Nubla (Rounds) - Josep M. Berenguer (Descansos)
    Off-line Ion-line editing: Julián Ávarez - Toti Rovira & Jordi Robert

  • Duration: 00:12:49
  • Languages: Spanish
  • Original format: Betacam SP
  • Formats: Betacam Digital - DVD
  • TV systems: PAL
  • License: Copyright