Sport/Art Talk: Wrestling My Case
The conversation took its starting point in the meeting between sport and art in professional wrestling. It rose questions regarding what is low and what is fine culture - and why activites and things are placed in one of these boxes.
American professional wrestling is a popular cultural phenomenon and a derivation from wrestling that leaves the purely sporting for an entertainment form that constitutes theatrical acrobatic wrestling. Pro wrestling actually includes artistic expressions such as storytelling, performance, costume and one can look at it as an art form itself.
Too Close to Stage and Theater to be seen in Sports as Sport?
The intial question that was poundered about - if professional wrestling is too close to stage and theater to be seen in sports as sport was unilaterally answered by the panel with a "yes". While professional wrestling involves physical activity and requires a high level of athleticism, it is typically considered to be more of a form of entertainment than a traditional sport.
Professional wrestling invovles scripted storylines and predetermined outcomes, which sets it apart from most other sports where the competition is based on skill and effort. However, the physical demands placed on wrestlers during their performance are real, and injuries are common.
Kayfabe is a term used in professional wrestling to refer to the portrayal of events within the industry as real, even when they are staged or scripted. In other words, it is the practice of maintaining the illusion that what happens in the wrestling ring is legitimate and authentic, rather than scripted. Interestingly, kayfabe involves the wrestler staying in character both inside and outside of the ring, and keping their real-life personas separate from their on-screen ones. This includes not breaking character during interviews, public appearances or social media interactions - not even in the public parking lot, as Fabian mentioned.
In addition to wrestlers, kayfabe also involves other people within the wrestling industry, such as promoters, referees, and announcers, who are expected to maintain the illusion of reality by plaing their respective roles in a believable manner.
Diverse Group of Fans
The appeal to of professional wrestling is broad and diverse, with fans coming from all walks of life. Fans of professional wrestling are often drawn to the athleticism, drama, and spectacle of the performances. Some fans enjoy the storytelling aspect of the sport and follow the ongoing storylines and feuds between wrestlers. Others are attracted to the physicality of the performances and appreciate the skill and athleticism required to execute the moves. Professional wrestling has also gained a following among fans of other forms of entertainment, such as comic books, video games and action movies. Many wrestling promotions have capitalized on this crossover appeal by featuring wrestlers with superhero-like personas and incorporating elements of fantasy and science fiction into their storylines.
Fabian Puregger - is a professional wrestler and the CEO of Svensk Wrestling.
Ashik Zaman - is the founder, editor-in-chief and curator of the art publication and nomadic exhibition platform C-print. He holds the position as curator at Konstnärshuset in Stockholm and is a board member of the Swedish Arts Grants Committee.
Lennart Asensio Nitz, Project Manager at the Center for Sports & Business, and Tinni Ernsjöö Rappe, Executive Director at SSE Art Initiative were also featured in the panel.