David Bell | Notes on Looking

O captor, my captor—EJ Hill and David Bell at Grace Exhibition Space

There was a fight last week, in Brooklyn. A pair of friends, EJ Hill and David Bell, boxed for twenty minutes on a bare floor in a second story loft. O Captor, my captor it was called. Fighting is a curious way to express friendship, and yet within the structure of a boxing match much can be explored and expressed about human nature and about the nature of male friendship. Two quotes help me think about what I saw that night, both from a 2009 interview of boxing writer and novelist Katherine Dunn by Mateo Hoke: “…within the body of the human animal and the mind of the human animal, boxing as a business, as a sport, as a community unifier, as an individual meditation instrument, as a teaching tool, and probably many other things—all of those things are operative there. And you can see the very bad—the conniving and the backstabbing, the lying, the cheating, the stealing. But you can also see a very wide spectrum of extremely positive traits. And because of the simple structure of the sport, it’s very overt. It’s not fancy. What goes on there is really upfront. It’s really in your face. So it’s easy to discern.” “From the moment the bell rings and two people come together, it is a ritualized crisis. And the individuals have to respond to crisis. Just as every news pundit will say, when the flood came or when the earthquake happened, you saw people operating in a crisis and they were terrific, or they fled and bit each other in the back like cowards, or whatever. What...

She didn’t even want to play, really she didn’t. (That’s why she made the boy cry.)

  I was totally set up for failure.  Not only had every man who had already gone up against this chess player earlier in the evening faced miserable defeat, but I was told this young man, a Computer Science Engineering Masters student at UCLA, was literally unbeatable.  I didn’t even want to play, really I didn’t.  Yet somehow, last Thursday night, Daniel Lara’s chess set seemed more appealing than a game of corn hole (woodwork and hand-knit beanbags courtesy of David Bell…or was it Anthony Bodlovic?). I was still feeling a bit on edge from the performances that happened earlier in the evening at JB Jurve (some of which never seemed to end but rather continue ambiguously in an uncomfortable in-between of performance and reality).   Trying to recover from the image of Noah Spindler in pink flared pants and a baby-blue rhinestone hoodie, blasting top-40 songs over a shitty PA system bought specifically for the occasion, a rigged chili-cook-off, and the stress of watching “Chad” deliver a “press conference” after running 30 miles in an overly-ambitious initiative to charm all the gallery owners on the East Side in a mere afternoon, I somehow found myself agreeing to give chess with this young man a try. The game did not begin well.  He had already taken one of my bishops and my knights, and all I had was one of his pawns.  As we played, Chess Master X’s friends circled me drunkenly, offering prophecies of failure disguised as words of encouragement (“don’t worry, he beats everyone,” or, “dude, he kicked my ass much faster than he’s kicking yours!”)  One or...