Golden Boys (Iğdır, Maravilla, Monterey Park)

by Juliane Bischoff
for: Antarctica. An Exhibition on Alienation at Kunsthalle Wien

The long takes in Jana Schulz‘s Golden Boys provide glimpses into the everyday lives and largely unproductive routines of young men from different social spheres. The camera followes the youths during mundane activities such as personal hygiene, hanging about, playing with their smartphones, doing sport or watching television. The film‘s title is derived from the company name Golden Boy Production, an American agency for boxing fights which hires young boxers and organises tournaments. Jana Schulz is interested in this subcultural milieu with its strict body norms, construction of male honour and group-specific rituals. Beyond the centre of social attention, special rules and codes determine the inclusion in a social world of it‘s own.

Schulz‘s film focuses on the peripheral showplaces beyond the boxing ring, where the boys‘ identities continue to be defined by their connection with the group. The three filmic sequences evolved in different places such as Los Angeles, where Schulz made contacts through boxing clubs, or the turkish province Iğdır, where she accompanied the boxers to their fights. In these often remote, economically challenged areas the sports clubs represent an antipode to the surrounding social environment. As the sociologist Loic Wacquant pointed out in his exmination of the Chicago boxing milieu (2003), it is this opposition that defines the subculture: in the boxing club the anarchic violence of the streets is replaced by the regulated violence in the ring.

The artist approaches her protagonists with sensitivity and oscillates between closeness and distance as she provides an insight into a social milieu which is unknown to a large part of society. Soft focus takes, focus changes and the lack of distinct beginnings and endings to the excerpts place the film somewhere between documentary and fiction. Every now and then, individual glimpses come into focus, filmic tension builds up, but comes to nothing. The impression of expanded time and the specifically composed sound capture the atmosphere in the community of young men whose social identity has inscribed itself into their bodies. The discipline and work invested in these bodies at the gym is reflected in the banality of mundane routines. The interactions between the youths, their preoccupation with physical appearance and the ongoing optimisation of their own performance and capabilities, even after dark, point to a habitus that embodies the social sphere and is linked to the power of economic living conditions.