To say that the best artists are creative types would be a gross understatement. Maxims pointing to Michelangelo for example, are not only numerous but as timeless as his great masterpieces. Da Vinci gave new meaning to the term Renaissance Man long before the word was invented, and was a veritable genius adored by many in his time, whose influence only grows many centuries after.
Yet today’s artists are no less innovative, and as before, they come in all forms, and while the tools may be different, the creative spark is no less intense, as they still challenge preconceived notions of the status quo and the dominant memes of the day. As before, true artists aren’t just those who wield a brush, and they express their art in wholly different forms. Architects build timeless works of art in their masterpieces, while the likes of Spencer Tunick use artful public nude modeling photography of multitudes of people as his art form.
Iepe Rubingh is a radical free thinker who not only blurs art from one’s perception of reality but creates a bona-fide reality from a foundation of art, and one of his masterpieces is the new sport called chessboxing.
While people wondered about the implications involved of a sport that somehow blended the clashing of a physical struggle with the world of mental contests, Rubingh would put into reality.
Chessboxing’s development may seem very poetic as it has transitioned from an artistic expression into a bona fide sport endorsed by major sporting associations right from the beginning. In fact, many years earlier, Rubingh was inspired by a French comicbook by Enki Bilal titled “Froid Équateur” that first depicted the possibilities of mixing boxing with chess.
The author may never in his wildest dreams ever expected to see his drawings and story cross over to reality, and for most people, it may have seemed like a concept that at first glance seems more like a flight of fancy people wouldn’t even consider as something that could ever see reality’s light of day.
Yet Rubingh would challenge the notion and come out its victor in more ways than one, and made the sport a real one that is slowly sweeping the world. The quintessential artist, his art is in his mind, his heart and his soul; and he molds reality to reflect it.
Life is his brush, and reality is his canvas.
Chessboxing is his latest and arguably among his most veritable masterpieces, and it has switched over from the world of conceptual art into a real sport.
Chessboxing.com interviewed Iepe Rubingh to get an insight of the new sport, and what we got was an inspiring excursion into the truism that no matter what people say, you can literally make anything happen.
Chessboxing.com: Tell us about Iepe. Can you give us the side of Iepe that is apart from what most people familiar with you (from the WCBO and around the web) know about, such as your artistic side, your approach, exhibitions, hobbies, and yoru viewpoints in life.
Iepe Rubingh: I’m an artist who has never set himself any boundaries.
Since the 20th century, art development has had a common philosophy in modern art that art can be anything. The symbol for this philosophy is the work ‘fountain’ by Marcel Duchamp.
At the moment I’m in a group exhibition (www.shoppedtodeath.com) where I hang 10 urinals at the wall and one on a stand with a hammer next to it. All urinals were signed with ‘R.Mutt 2005’. Duchamps urinal is signed R.Mutt 1917. With this installation I’m asking the public what they think about a urinal as an artwork anno 2005.
To my opinion, the statement it makes is still up to date; but the form however, is not. I think it’s time for a modern explanation of the philosophy that art can be anything in a language that communicates with more people than just the 0.001 % part of the world population that is a part of the modern art world.
It is my conviction that I am allowed to use any material, any media to express my ideas to the public. To me, developing the chessboxing world is an art project.
One should be careful because a lot of art projects simulate reality and act as if they are real. There have been artists who have set up a political party or other such organizations. Most of these projects have had the flavor of irony. Chessboxing on the other hand, is does not simulate reality; it shapes its own reality.
What we do today is that most of the time we don’t communicate anymore that it’s an art project. It is even better not the tell the public that it is-- except that it is seriously about being a new sport—and also an art project. Otherwise it would scare them off.
For my future work it will be a challenge to bridge the gap between my conviction and the public aversion towards this philosophy. I don’t know yet how to solve this.
Who are your idols and heroes, and those who influenced you? Why?
Normally I don’t do this kind of name dropping, because the list of people is very long. Varying from people that we all know to people I know personally. But let me try.
Enki Bilal for his brilliant artwork and delivering the idea of chessboxing.
My grandfather for the love of nature
David Bowie, because of his changes
Christo and Jean Claude for reaching so many people with art.
Ger Bout for teaching me about being consequent in art.
DJ Dangermouse for making a perfect hybrid with his album The Grey Album
My father for having a great comic collection and too many other things to mention, and of course the whole Rubingh family for their general support.
And more that are too numerous to list here.
What is Iepe’s typical day?
I work a lot and I love to work. I start around 10 in the morning and normally work until 18:00 then I go to the chessboxing gym and train until 21:00. When a project is on I continue my work between 21:00 and 23:00.
Half the time I work on organizing and managing projects (this means writing lots of emails and sponsoring the phone companies by making a lot of calls), half the time I can work on developing and working out ideas.
I have a circle of people around me from all sorts of disciplines that I work with. For instance, I have been working with the same graphic designer Hans Finckh for almost 6 years now. The World Chess Boxing Organisation is formed by my partner Christian Schräder from the production company Treffer.ag and our press ‘lady’ Martina Lülsdorf, as well as Andreas Dilschneider, who is now our official spokesman. Wolfgang Müller has been advising us on all legal issues.
How did it all start and what inspired you to start chessboxing? Trials and tribulations? Supporters?
I met Luis in Amsterdam, and we used to play chess in our free time when we were students. We were standing in a bar one day and he told me he had started boxing. It turned out that we had both started boxing at the same time. We talked about fighting a real boxing fight. And then I came up with the chessboxing idea out of the comic of Enki Bilal.
A friend of mine Simon van Melick, together with his brother Sander, hosts an interesting evening show in Amsterdam called Nectar. They organize parties and work together with artists. I started working out the concept of a chessboxing performance for a Nectar evening. But soon it turned out that the idea had a lot more potential then a small performance at a party. Together with Simon I started working out the idea. Along the way it became bigger and bigger and it turned into a real sport.
After the showfight at platoon (blog.platoon.org) on September 2003, we ended up doing the world championship at Paradiso the same year in November. We worked together with a professional campaigning and production company, BKB (www.bkb.nl) and Showroom MAMA (www.mamamedia.nl).
How do you find and how well is the acceptance of the sport thus far?
It’s getting better and better, because we have been around now for more then 2 years. So people are realising that it’s not a joke. The fact that other and better chessboxers went into the ring has quiet an impact on the worldpublic that we reach out for through the media coverage. In Germany there was no newspaper that wrote about it in an ironic way.
What will be your role in the WCBO in the future?
I will become a background player more and more. At the moment we have our own spokesman Andreas Dillschneider who takes care of most of the interviews. I only do the background stories. I will deal with structural things more and more together with my WCBO partners. At this moment I’m responsible in recruting and selecting the chessboxers for the upcoming fight. I’m being the promoter so to say.
In the first 2006 event, who are the likely contenders and can you also tell us more about each one of them?
[Reigning European Chessboxing Champion] Tihomir “Tigertad” Titschko will defend his title in Cologne on the 4th of February. He might be fighting against a young Norwegian talent. We are not sure yet because he is quite young, and we may yet decide to perhaps build him up a bit more first before we send him into the ring for a title fight.
We are also planning a second fight for that evening, which will be between two local chessboxers out of Nord Rhein Westfalen.
Additionally we are preparing to go to America and might even end up doing a fight in Reykjavic.