From April 28 to June 10, 2023, nüüd.berlin gallery will show Self Defense Made Easy (No. 1), works by Berlin-based artist Philip Crawford (*1988, USA). The exhibition explores references between kung fu culture and practices of self-defense in Black communities that ultimately serve self-care. Asks us to pause, engage with the images, relax, take a deep breath, and then repeat the process. On display is a video work and derivative prints.
Self Defense Made Easy (No. 1) explores the teaching and constitution of African American martial arts as a mechanism for radical social, political, and epistemological liberation.
Through the fusion of body and mind disciplines, various adaptations and appropriations of non-Western self-defense have permeated Black communities in America for centuries. These kinesthetic systems, often associated with religious and political movements, continue to create new avenues of self-knowledge today.
While Philip Crawford's works draw primarily from the popular sounds and images of 1980s kung fu culture, his research equally considers the roots of Black American martial arts and unarmed self-defense that lie in slavery uprisings, religious communities, military service, solidarity with global anti-imperialist movements, and Black Power.
The basis of Self Defense Made Easy (No. 1) is the adapted and
sequence of a martial arts instructional video ("Self Defense Made Easy," 1989, Century Film Studios, New York). The clip shows Shidoshi Ron Van Clief demonstrating the proper form of the so-called snake fist, an open-handed technique characterized by quick and powerful strikes to the opponent's vital points, including the face, throat, and neck.
Throughout his demonstration, Van Clief reminds trainees to relax and breathe. He instructs us to carefully tuck our thumbs under our palms so we can effectively hit our opponent's eyes without hurting ourselves. The focus of the looped animation and softly pixelated prints in the exhibition is the "strike to the eyes" not as a moment of aggression, but as a call to self-empowerment and preparation for the improvisation-based demands of self-defense.
Philip Crawford (born 1988) is a US-based artist living in Berlin. His artistic work includes critical essays, works on paper, videos, sculptures, and installations. Philip Crawford holds a B.A. in History from Stanford University and an MFA in Sculpture from the Tyler School of Art and Architecture