In this report I will delve into my Living Dangerously (artefact 2) and what motivated me make it. I may refer to my other artefacts as well: The Thing (Artefact 1) and Shame/Guilt (Artefact 3) and the effects they had on the process and me.
First things first, why make an artefact about wrestling? I believe that there is a unique passion present in these individuals that drives them to destroy their bodies’ day in and day out that I believe deserves proper recognition rather than simply being labelled as “fake” and dismissed by the majority of people. I want to show people that wrestling deserves as much respect as any other staged art form. “Wrestling is a sum of spectacles, of which no single one is a function: each moment imposes the total knowledge of a passion which erect and alone, without ever extending to the crowning moment of the result” (Barthes, 1957) isn’t this true for performance?
I think it says a lot about the audience when they say wrestling is fake and then proceed to watch Game of Thrones, Walking Dead and Breaking Bad, all of which are works of fiction. Yet this stigma has stuck with industry even through the 80’s, late 90’s and early 2000’s when is was most popular. I would argue that any performance of a work of fiction is subject to the same criticism “There are people who think that wrestling is an ignoble sport. Wrestling is not a sport, it is a spectacle, and it is no more ignoble to attend a wrestled performance of Suffering than a performance of sorrows of Arnolphe or Andromaque.” (Barthes, 1957)
In this section I will evaluate the ideas that influenced the process of constructing the project from conception to completion.
The inspiration behind Living Dangerously initially began with a desire just to make something that involved wrestling. The task’s description of something beautiful allowed for any interpretations so I took that as my opportunity. One of my primary inspirations was the career of Mick Foley, a wrestler whose career was defined by hardcore violent matches. This man has lost an ear, damaged his back, suffered multiple concussions and yet he still continued to perform. This formulated the catalyst for what living dangerously would be based around, the thrill of performing despite the danger that it presents.
The style of the artefact was based around Michael Moore documentaries specifically “Bowling for Columbine” (Bowling for Columbine, 2002) and “Capitalism a Love Story”(Capitalism: a Love Story, 2009). Moore style of using archive footage and combining it with his narrations allowed me contextualise my information with strong visual reinforcement. Without the use of clips I feel that the audience would not be able to truly connect with what I was trying to say and the message would have been lost. With that said given the influence of Michael Moore my use of archive footage was warranted however I could have made more of an effort to appear on screen so I could have a tangible presence that the viewers could connect with as opposed to solely a voice of god narrating the entire video.
In regards to the clips themselves I wanted to use footage that illustrates the risks that wrestlers face every time they step between the ropes, Including Mick Foley’s infamous fall from the top of cage at King of the Ring 1998. I also wanted to shock my audience by showing them what could happen when moves go awry (and sometimes even when they work). One clip in particular shows Mexican wrestler Hijo del Perro Aguayo dying in ring following a kick that fractured 3 vertebrae, he was dead almost instantly (Hastings, 2015).
In the technical department I wish that footage from more of matches could have been kept at a consistent resolution however this is a result of the matches being filmed at different times with different cameras so I did the best I could with what was available to me at the time. The clip where Eddie Guerrero was also had momentary pause at the beginning that I missed during editing so I need to pay more attention to detail and look out for instances like that. Also my narration sounded unnatural with a low fi tone that was very noticeable when I spoke in a higher pitch. I should have used better equipment like an Edirol in order to provide better quality sound for my artefact. Unfortunately I feel that this was a consistent problem across all three artefacts as I put more enthuses on the research as the projects progressed. In future I will make better use of the resources that are available to me.
Once the project I was faced another problem I was unable to upload it to youtube due to the WWE blocking the video for using their footage. I feel this was a violation of the terms of fair use as I making commentary on the business of pro wrestling and I wasn’t damaging their market. However there was simple too grey to wade through given the time constraint of researching and producing artefact 3 so I simply moved the video to dropbox. I continued to use dropbox for Guilt/Shame and moved The Thing there because of a technical issue with the original video. For my FMP I will study further into the terms of fair to ensure that I do not face the same problem and if I do I can dispute it effectively.
Here I will cover the Primary research I conducted of the course of the module specifically that which impacted Living Dangerously.
During the module we took a trip to London to witness the Ai Weiwei art exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts. While there I saw many unique pieces of art made from seemingly random materials, the exhibitions didn’t resonate with me at first. During a second round through I took notice of mini documentaries that played throughout the day. They talked about the exhibitions, the origins of the materials used and why they were made. This made me realise that, in isolation you can admire the visuals and craft and interpret your own way. However the context behind the exhibitions greatly increased the impact of the art. For example Weiwei’s Straight (Weiwei, 2012) was created from 90 tonnes of steel reinforcement that was gathered following the Sichuan earthquake of 2008. This was made in protest of poorly constructed buildings that contributed to the death toll during the quake. I attempted to convey this in Living Dangerously by saying yes wrestling is staged however there are real and sometimes fatal risks and that’s why I showed the clips of devastating injuries and even death and narrated it as such.
In regards to my own artefacts I struggled with conducting primary research. The Thing’s story of peer pressure and abortion was incredibly sensitive subject, I couldn’t bring myself ask someone such personal questions that I felt could easily be misinterpreted. The experience of The Thing had a negative effect on me going into Living Dangerously as it had wounded my self-confidence and I found myself unable to reach out to people for their thoughts on wrestling. If I were to go back a repeat the process I would have asked people what they thought of wrestling whether they fans or not and then contrast their thoughts with my own. An example would be the Marilyn Manson interview that Michael Moore conducted for “Bowling for Columbine”. I believe that this input would have greatly enhanced the message I was attempting to convey with Living Dangerously.
I will need to embolden myself for future projects so that I am able to connect with necessary people who could provide information that can positively influence my work, at the same time I would need to maintain an awareness of conduct when handling sensitive subjects such abortion and peer pressure. The key would be to find method to balancing these qualities.
As mentioned above Living Dangerously adopts conventions from Michael Moore documentaries such as “Bowling for Columbine” and “Capitalism a Love Story” in that makes use of archive footage to illustrate the narrative. These films are categorised as participatory documentaries, wherein the documentary maker (Moore) openly interacts with the subject and is full of on the spot interviews that are informal in nature. Looking back at the at results I found that my documentary uses conventions found in Poetic documentaries (Doc Modes nichols.pdf, n.d.), Less as a result of intent but circumstance as I mentioned above with my Primary research. Poetic documentaries attempt to harness an “Inner truth” as opposed to an “Objective truth” through and visual and tonal manipulation. You see this how the clips are arranged to fit the narrative and that I’m not suggesting a factual answer to my question but rather to provoke an emotional response from the viewer.
In terms of the context of the artefact I found sources of information are the wrestlers themselves. Many conduct what are called “shoots” where they open up about experiences in their careers outside of the character they portray for the audience. You see this in documentaries like “Beyond the Mat” (Beyond the Mat, 1999) and Faces and Heels (Faces and Heels: A Real Look at Independent Wrestling, 2004), wrestlers from the WWE to the independent circuit all have their unique stories to tell about the business. They gave insight into their personal lives and how wrestling has affected them and what motivates them to go out and entertain despite the pain, Mick Foley said “several times a year I look at something I say this is going to be dangerous and it could turn out real bad but its got to be done for the sake of history” (Beyond the Mat, 1999). This fits very well with the lecture on passion, as wrestling is to suffer and endure. “A perfect picture, I say, for he [the poet] yieldeth to the powers of the mind an image of that whereof the philosopher bestoweth but a wordish description: which doth neither strike, pierce, nor possess the sight of the soul so much as that other [the poet] doth.” (An Apology for Poetry p. 119). This quote from the lecture and how poetry can reveal the soul is a beautiful analogy for how I see wrestling. Combined with what I learned from Barthes Mythologies (Barthes, 1957) and Weiwei’s Royal Academy of Arts Exhibition (2015), I feel my wrestling artifact is effective in challenging preconceived notions and offering new insights.
This also begs the question what separates my work from the other wrestling documentaries is that it isn’t as interested in what’s happening outside the ring rather it revels in the emotional spectacle within the ring. It draws attention to the entire performance as opposed to the individual actors. That being said one must consider where these people come from in order to give greater contextual weight to what happens during the spectacle of wrestling, which why I should interview some wrestlers if I were to revisit the subject of this artefact. However this style needn’t be strictly applied to wrestling as I could use it to cover other subjects and refine it in the future.
All of the R&D that went into this project has lead me on an interesting journey through something I already loved and granted a new perspective on. Refering back to my opening quote from Barthes, to me wrestling is poetry in motion just like all performance fiction. It also taught me that I need to bolster my own self-confidence when comes to conducting interviews because I let the The Thing damage the process of Living Dangerously. This experience coupled with the trip to Ai Weiwei’s exhibition taught the proper significance and value of primary reseach. For my FMP I will take everything that I have learned here and build off of it to produce a far more refined piece of work.
Barthes, R. (1957). Mythologies
Beyond the Mat. (1999). [film] usa: Barry W. Blaustein.
Bowling for Columbine. (2002). [film] usa: Michael Moore.
Capitalism: a Love Story. (2009). [film] usa: Michael Moore.
Doc Modes nichols.pdf. (n.d.). 1st ed. [ebook] http://www.godnose.co.uk, p.3. Available at: http://www.godnose.co.uk/downloads/alevel/documentary/Doc%20Modes%20nichols.pdf [Accessed 15 Nov. 2015].
Faces and Heels: A Real Look at Independent Wrestling. (2004). [film] usa: Daniel R. Beehler.
Hastings, D. (2015). Wrestler Pedro Aguayo Jr. died almost instantly: autopsy. [online] NY Daily News. Available at: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/world/wrestler-pedro-aguayo-jr-died-instantly-autopsy-article-1.2163312 [Accessed 27 Oct. 2015].
Sidney, P., Herman, P. and Sidney, P. (2001). Sir Philip Sidney’s an apology for poetry, and, Astrophil and Stella. Glen Allen, Va.: College Pub.
Weiwei,Ai., (2015) Exhibition at Royal Academy of Arts
Weiwei, A. (2012). Straight. [sculpture] London: Royal Academy of Arts.