Perhaps the shortest poem ever. A poem by Muhammad Ali, (1) “The Greatest”, who - as the writer Wolf Wondratscheck noted – “did not handle boxing like a man, but danced, talked, fooled around”. (2) A master of spectacle and self-staging, an artist and poet with body language.
In the exhibition project JUMPIN' AT GLEASON'S by Bernhard Rappold and Felipe Talo at Schöneberg’s boxing club Isigym, two worlds seem to collide: on the one hand the quite academically shaped world of art, painting and artistic performances. On the other hand, the world of boxing, which has its origins in the working class, a milieu of underdogs and outsiders. And yet both worlds are connected by a specific aesthetic, a creativity of staging. In boxing, for example, it is the aesthetics of the body and the gym, the stage-like construction and lighting of the ring, the almost theatrical clothing of the fighters in their shiny competition shorts and robes, the trash talk in the run-up to the fights, etc. - a penchant for staging that reveals a thoroughly queer aspect of the otherwise apparently martial sport.
I especially like Ali's poem because it suggests two fundamental questions: who am I? Who are we? And I especially love JUMPIN’ AT GLEASON’S as it enables an exchange, a reciprocal influencing of two seemingly contrary worlds, which turns the “Me” into a “We”.
(1) In 1975 Muhammad Ali was invited to talk to a group of Harvard students. Near the end of the speech, someone shouted: “Give us a poem!” Ali paused for a moment, looked up and said: “Me. We.”
(2) Wolf Wondratscheck, “Ali zum 60. Geburtstag,” in Im Dickicht der Fäuste. Vom Boxen (2005), p. 201.