Ascii Fighter and BOX are two versions of the same piece. They were both 30 minute performances in which two boxers fight wearing gloves and protective equipment fitted with sensors that send signals to a computer. The performances were staged much as a boxing match would be presented: in a ring, with a referee and timekeeper.
In its initial form, ASCII Fighter, there are three sections to the performance; Poetry Fighter, Ascii Fighter and Video Fighter. In Poetry Fighter, hits to the gloves, headgear and waist mounted sensors trigger sound samples. The samples are part of a sentence about the inability to express anger. In Ascii Fighter, the gloves trigger series of zeroes and ones on one screen, while on the other video screen, we see the results of the zeroes and ones interpreted as ASCII code, the binary computer language that most computers use to generate letters and symbols. There were two rounds to this section: the first was free form, with random letters and symbols appearing according to their ASCII code; in round two, the boxers hit each other in a predetermined sequence of punches that were designed to spell out a text: “I am an animal”. In Video Fighter, hits trigger various combinations of video loops of the performers apologizing in different ways.
Two years later, the performance was remounted with technical and thematic changes. In ASCII Fighter the fighters were connected to the computers by actual wires. In BOX the sensors were attached to modified wireless video game controllers, which controlled videos stored on a computer running MAX/MSP/JITTER software.
BOX had three sections: the first was Progress/Regress, in which each boxer’s hits generated movement along a hand-painted progress bar, similar to those used to measure internet downloads; in the second round, the boxers hits triggered video clips of the boxers doing pushups to exhaustion; in the third round, they triggered clips of the boxers verbalizing the inner dialogue they might be having while fighting.
The artist started boxing to train for this performance, just to be able to throw a convincing punch, but quickly learned that he had misinterpreted boxing: that it is simply violent and about expressing anger. Rather, he found that staying calm and controlling your fear is the goal. These insights enriched the initial metaphor. ASCII Fighter (BOX) renders the psychological frustrations of communication problems visible as physical violence, and is about pushing oneself through difficult moments.