Trans Boxing Conceptual Exercises

Nola Hanson

Trans Boxing is an art project in the form of a boxing club that centers trans and gender variant people.  Over the past three years we have developed a praxis that is experimental, disciplined, and responsive. The educational components of the project extend beyond what is typically experienced in most boxing clubs. In addition to providing high-level boxing training to groups who have been traditionally excluded from the sport, we have facilitated education for our partner gyms around trans and gender inclusive practices, provided teaching opportunities for participants, and have given lectures about our work across the country. Myself, my collaborators (Hill Donnell and Liv Adler) and the participants of the project also informally educate others–– family members, friends, neighbors, colleagues–– in an ongoing way, through casual conversation. Trans Boxing functions as a medium through which to engage in dialogue about broad complicated topics like inequity, gender, inclusion, history, power, and accessibility. This mediation has given me the ability to talk about my own personal experiences indirectly, and has allowed me to use metaphors and symbols to explore these experiences. 

The practice of gender and the practice of boxing mirror each other: they both represent a discipline which is created through the repetition of embodied gestures and actions. Over time, the accumulation of these actions results in the formation of a cohesive subjectivity. The self– as theorized by John Dewey, one of the founders of Pragmatism–is an organization of habits, that is always in relationship to its particular situation, or context. 

My in-progress project, Trans Boxing Conceptual Exercises, uses the rituals of boxing training to explore this relationship between the self and its context. In the project, participants are invited to follow a set of instructions and submit documentation of completed “exercises” which formalize the rituals of boxing training. The project serves as an educational resource, providing practical and useful information for a wide audience, while also re-claiming the day-to-day practices of the boxer and framing them as conceptual works in and of themselves.

The instructions included in this project support a pragmatic approach which facilitates embodied knowledge, inquiry, and experiential learning. The exercises can all be done at home or in your neighborhood using ordinary materials. In addition to the educational potential of the exercises, through representing their own experiences and presenting it to a wider audience, participants also occupy the role of the teacher. This, along with the documentation, installation, and distribution of the work will further expand the pedagogical potential of the project. 

DOCUMENTATION

EXERCISES: 

Throw These Punches: Jab, Jab, Cross, Hook, Cross, Hook. 

Make a video (10-20 seconds or so) of yourself doing the following combination: 1-1-2-3-2-3. (1=jab, 2=cross, 3=hook) The video does not have to include your face, or even your hands, but some part of your body should be included in the shot. The video can be edited/cropped.

Make a Slip Bag 

A slip bag is a small, weighted bag which hangs at eye-level and swings in a pendulum-like motion. The bag is used primarily to practice bobbing, weaving, and slipping punches. The instructions for this exercise are to make a home-made slip bag and install it in your bedroom. Take a photograph of the slip bag with the flash on. The slip bag should be the main object of focus. List the materials used.

Take an Epsom Salt Bath

After a workout, take a bath with Epsom salt. If you have a fan in your bathroom, turn it off so that the room can fill with steam. The bathwater should be hot. As the tub is filling up, pour in 4-5 pounds of Epsom salt. Run your hand through the water to break up any clumps and to make sure the salt has fully dissolved. After you’re done with your bath, and before your drain the tub, take a photograph. 

Shadowbox in a Public Place. 

Find a location in your neighborhood that is traditionally busy, with pedestrians, shoppers, people waiting for the bus, etc. Shadowbox for 3 minutes. Leave. Record the date, time, and location where the action took place. 

Teach Someone How to Throw a Jab. 

This can be done through in-person or virtual instruction. After some practice, ask the person you taught to send you a short (1-3 paragraph) written reflection of their experience.

Take a Picture of the Inside of Your Glove.

The photo should only include the interior of the glove and should be taken with the flash on. 

IMAGES:

found here

CAPTIONS:  

  1. Make a Slip Bag (tennis ball, sock, handwrap, curtain rod) Ada Jane McNulty, New York, NY. 2020. 
  2. Take a Picture of the Inside of Your Glove. Liv Adler, Brooklyn, NY. 2020. 
  3. Throw These Punches: Jab, Jab, Cross, Hook, Cross. Kerry Thomas, Long Island, NY. 2020.

The Social Forms of Art (SoFA) Journal is a bi-annual publication dedicated to supporting, documenting, and contextualizing socially engaged art and its related fields and disciplines. Each issue of the Journal focuses on a different theme in order to take a deep look at the ways in which artists are engaging with communities, institutions, and the public. The Journal seeks to support writing and web based projects that offer documentation, critique, commentary and context for a field that is active and expanding.

The SoFA Journal is published in print and PDF form twice a year, in June and December by the PSU Art & Social Practice Program. In addition to the print publication, the Journal hosts an online platform for ongoing projects.

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