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That was then, and then it happened again two years later. The second battle was held in the summer of 2004, but it felt sooner than that. After a year long hiatus from producing any work either on or offline I got a familiar email from Arcangel asking if I would like to participate in another HTML wrestling match. He mentioned that this match would be quite different from all the others. This match would take his original idea a bit further; out of the internet and into the real world. Since his last matches the idea of HTML wrestling was still evolving. In it’s latest incarnation he wanted to place the wrestlers in a physical wrestling ring in Mexico City. It would be a one-night event that would take place during the opening night of an exhibition. The thought of visiting Mexico City and also meeting up with other net-artists kept me from thinking about having stage fright in an unfamiliar city. Wrestling in this setting would be very different from doing it in the privacy and the comfort of our own studio, but it was the chance of a lifetime. After sorting out the details of the exhibition he emailed me a rough plan of what was to transpire on the days leading up to the opening night. The opening would take place in El Centro, a newly constructed Art and Design School. The exhibition would occupy the entire building, all 4 floors of it. All the empty rooms and hallways would be used for exhibiting digital artwork. The live wrestling ring would be constructed in the auditorium. When I got there everything was in motion. I know he mentioned that the school was new, but that was an understatement because when we got there, there were still people in hard hats with blue prints surveying the progress. So as the construction workers put up walls, set glass, and framed doors, we were only minutes behind them installing the exhibition.
In retrospect, the setting was perfect because I took pleasure in seeing how things were built, like looking at the source of web pages. It's something in how the code is laid down that is very fascinating. Maybe it’s just me, but there is a good deal of magic that happens when you read a static line and imagine it taking form. Looking at a webpage source is like looking at floor plans and trying to imaging what the building will look like. It’s great to see what’s going on underneath the veil of the browser, and how it’s done is precisely Arcangel’s idea behind the setting for this live match in Mexico. This time the audience in this event will also have the bonus of seeing the source code as it is being written.
As Arcangel described, a medium size ring sat about 4 feet off the ground
in the main auditorium, complete with ropes, a corner post, and the event’s
logo in the center; "Informera" in big letters with
recycling arrows and a motto underneath: "create –destroy –transform."
Nice touch I thought. In two corners of the ring were two tallish art
studio desks with stools, our laptops were propped on top of them. There
were three large screens on the walls. The main screen on the center wall
would have a projection of the actual Infomera
wrestling website, our virtual ring. Our desktops and everything we did
on our computers would be projected on two screens, each right behind
our backs. Although I was glued to my laptop for the duration of the battle,
with hardly a break to knock back a couple of shots of the sponsor’s
tequila, I would have liked to pay closer attention to what Subculture,
my opponent, was doing. Whenever I was finished with one page, or move
as Arcangel would say, I should've been glancing over to his projection
screen behind me. But instead of following his moves, I spent most of
my time nervously thinking about my next 3 combinations of moves. I was
worried that at any moment Subculture might be so unpredictable
as to reverse a move in his favor and jeopardize any of my supposed strategies.
It was a gorgeous evening and since much of the building was open to the outside we could venture in and out of the installation rooms and not feel like we were missing the calming sunset. Inside the auditorium, people scattered around the ring watching. Besides the general reaction to art performances, we did manage to get some laughs and personal ringside comments, one to my surprise was from a real junior middleweight wrestler. His name was El Oso, Spanish for The Bear, we chatted for a moment about a famous old school wrestler that he was training with. In his drunken state he said he could relate to what we were doing and thought it was the coolest thing. I also distinctly recall a couple bathed in the cold blue glow of the reflected light from the projectors making-out as if they had just met. I would have liked to think that our relentless battling in code, like a climax in a techno-erotic story by J.G. Ballard or a cyber-fetish short by William Gibson had something to do with their uncontrollable passion, but I highly doubt it. I bet it was all the Mezcal (Wiki: Mezcal, J. G. Ballard, William Gibson). Throughout the night I would stop and wonder what people might have thought as they casually strolled in to see those three huge screens, and the two of us in the ring with laptops. Does the idea of HTML wrestling make more sense now that we are out in the open? Look no strings! Ever so often random people would wonder curiously close to the ropes. They would stare at us then if they happened to catch our eyes, they would ask us what it was that we were doing. So in some ways I felt that we were back to square one. They got the part about attacking and counter attacking with special moves but code was the part that had them thinking it was Greek for geeks.
Oh and to answer the very last question I usually get when I tell them that I am participating in an HTML wrestling match: In the end nobody really wins, that's where the sporty aspect of Infomera ends and the art form begins. In the process we revel in the spontaneity of the event and hopefully the results are what entertains our audience as much as the real wrestlers of Lucha Libre did for me in my childhood.(Wiki: Lucha libre)
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