Zhang Ding’s double-channel video installation Boxing I & II (2007) is a beautifully cruel experience to endure. The two films depict a young man dressed in a lucid t-shirt – the artist himself – in a dark space, confronted only by a punching bag composed of three round cacti with sharp spiky thorns.
The first film consists of close-ups of the boxer’s clenched fists as he hits the cutting cactus, increasingly hurting himself until his fists are intensely bleeding, while the cactus is still intact and un-defeated. In the second film the space has widened, and the artist’s body and the sharp punching bag is emphasized with chiaroscuro effects in a dramatic light-darkness tableau. The boxer is seen striking and hitting the cutting thorns with quick painful punches in an ever-ending looped fight.
Violent and vehement, the boxer fights in vain against an otherwise fragile species - it’s a contest he can never overcome.