Artists rumble at Super Art Fight 2019

By KANAK GUPTA | November 21, 2019

b5-super-art-fight

COURTESY OF KANAK GUPTA

DIETANIUM emerged victorious against defending champion Stormsketch.

As the crowd chanted “Taco Bell! Taco Bell!” five minutes into “Super Art Fight: Thanksgiving Thrashing,” I knew this night was going to be wild. This Thanksgiving edition of the strange collision between wrestling and live art, or “the greatest live art competition in the known universe,” as it calls itself, took place at Ottobar on Friday, Nov. 15. 

Super Art Fight (SAF) is the brainchild of Baltimore artists Jamie Noguchi and Nick DiFabbio, and it was first hosted in the city in 2008. Since then it has blown up, and it has been organized into hundreds of live shows. While it is a regular at Ottobar and The Black Cat in D.C., it has also become quite popular at conventions like Otakon, MAGFest, Anime Expo and more. 

The premise of this show is that it is a live art competition in the spirit of a professional wrestling contest, complete with the over-the-top characters, the costumes and all the drama that comes with wrestling. In each set, two artists, immersed in their unique personas, come out on stage to loud fanfare, and introductions from the two hosts and commentators, Marty Day and Ross Nover. Behind them is a large white canvas, about eight by six feet in size, which soon becomes their arena.

Every match is 25 minutes long, with five separate rounds of five minutes each, and each round has a different topic. The artists choose their topics by spinning the “Wheel of Death” that randomly lands on one of the audience submissions entered on the SAF website before the show. 

The artists either arm themselves with black paint or some markers (black, blue or red), and then they compete to entertain and wow the audience with their artistic interpretations of the topic. And the match really is no holds barred, because the players, while working on their topics, can also attack their opponent’s drawings by changing them into something that works for their topic instead. By the end of the 25 minutes, the canvas is left looking like a huge scribble board, as if all its doodles were made by comic artists. 

The competitors’ very in-character antics and the hosts’ entertaining commentary keep the audience thoroughly enthralled throughout the round, at the end of which the audience’s loud response (literally measured by a decibel meter) chooses the winner of the match. Despite roughly knowing the gist of these rules before attending though, the show was somehow exactly what I pictured, yet nothing I could’ve prepared for. The very first match, which would decide who would fight the reigning champion of SAF, set the mood for the rest of the show. On one side, we had DIETANIUM, a hardcore death metal goth wearing white face paint and all-black clothing, and on the other side was her complete opposite, Rave Royale, who wore only neon colors — a rhinestone and feather crown, pink stockings and gloves, yellow boots and a body suit with every color on the neon spectrum. 

For all the matches, the artists’ first round topic would always be “what are you thankful for,” owing to the ‘Thanksgiving Thrashing’ theme of the night. Rave Royale drew an iconic bell within a semicircle, giving rise to the aforementioned “Taco Bell” cheer. DIETANIUM began with a very artistic caricature of the hosts and drew a few “aw’s” from the audience, which soon turned into laughter as she changed them into metal goths with dark eye make-up and blood dripping from their mouths. Then with some time remaining, the offensive attacks began, and Rave Royale put a taco in a host’s hand while DIETANIUM drew a raven perched on the bell. 

By the end of the match, after going through topics like, “Simpsons Yourself”, “If Food Could Talk”, “Don’t Eat That”, “Naughty Pokemon” and more, the drawing board was left with an overwhelming mess of doodles. Amidst them you could barely make out two super-villain-looking hosts looking on as an evil rat shot a simpson-ed bloody DIETANIUM who was being attacked by a crashing plane from the top and Kirby from the bottom — just as the Kirby spat out a talking burger, which itself spat out another taco. Despite the torture that Simpson DIETANIUM suffered, the real DIETANIUM emerged victorious in the end. 

The next match was between the kommissar Red Erin and the upstart rookie Slash Laroux. The two battled, Red Erin drawing a cat that projectile-vomited on Slash Laroux’s self-portrait and the chest full of student loan debt that they were thankful for. Slash Laroux, who liked to pick on the referee and drew sarcastic interpretations of topics, such as drawing a globe with a “Vacancy” sign for the topic ‘the world in 2099’, won the match. 

This match was followed by a performance by musical act Sexyful. The band’s flamboyant lead singer, sporting an orange mohawk, blingy clothes and a t-shirt that was a pattern made of just the face of one of the hosts, introduced himself as Baron Von Sexyful and als introduced fellow band members Sexycool (an unsmiling indoor shades-wearing bassist) and Sexyfool (the drummer dressed as a jester). The band performed many humorous songs, including one in which they brought host Ross Nover on stage and roasted him during the song.

After this musical intermission was the Tag Team round, where the reigning champions Gods & Monsters (Stompadon and Wisteria) were challenged by new team Sex Drive (who, surprise surprise, were crowd favorite Baron Von Sexyful and his chauffer Stevie Speed). The rules of this round remained the same, except that in this one, the pairs could tag in and out of the match with their partner. The highlight of the match, and possibly the entire night, was when team Sex Drive got the topic ‘Finding Jesus’, and instead of drawing on the overfilled board, Baron Von Sexyful found a piece of yellow paper and drew quite a blasphemous sketch of a sodomizing cross and threw it into the audience. With the final board showing a merman playing an electric guitar and drawings of pickles hidden all over the canvas’s contents, the audience chose Sex Drive as the new winners of the Tag Team Title, to which the Baron responded, “you’re welcome.”

The next round was the grand finale — champion General Stormsketch vs. the winner of the first round, DIETANIUM. General Stormsketch began the round by drawing a Popeye’s chicken burger, after receiving a large envelope from Rave Royale which read, in neon letters, “Avenge me.” This set had some of the funniest and most absurd drawings, like a pug with a plug for a face and a tiny gladiator sitting opposite a huge amazonian woman on a see-saw. Following the pattern of all the upsets this night had seen, newcomer DIETANIUM defeated the reigning champion Stormsketch with roaring applause from the audience. 

This was perhaps, the strangest, weirdest event I have ever been to. It wasn’t just the absurd premise of the show that made it so amazing, but it was also the audience, which was buzzing with energy all night. Many in the audience had been to Super Art Fights multiple times and were returning for more, leading the crowd in chanting during countdowns and the “wheel of death” spins. The dedication that the artists, who are tattoo artists, graphic designers and art teachers by day, had towards playing their explosive and dramatic wrestling alter-egos, as well as the hosts’ engaging commentary, made this one of the most fun nights I’ve ever had.

As my friend and fellow Hopkins senior, Vincent Fumo, put it, “this is the most Baltimore thing I have ever seen.” I will definitely be going to the next Super Art Fight, and I highly recommend you do too. 

which would decide who would fight the reigning champion of SAF, set the mood for the rest of the show. On one side, we had DIETANIUM, a hardcore death metal goth wearing white face paint and all-black clothing, and on the other side was her complete opposite, Rave Royale, who wore only neon colors — pink gloves, pink stockings, yellow boots, a crown made of rhinestones and feathers and a body suit with every color on the neon spectrum.

For all the matches, the artists’ first round topic would always be, “What are you thankful for?” The night’s theme was “Thanksgiving Thrashing,” after all. Rave Royale drew an iconic bell within a semicircle, giving rise to the aforementioned “Taco Bell” cheer. DIETANIUM began with a very artistic caricature of the hosts and drew a few “aw’s” from the audience, which soon turned into laughter as she changed them into metal goths with dark eye make-up and blood dripping from their mouths. 

Then with some time remaining, the offensive attacks began, and Rave Royale put a taco in a host’s hand while DIETANIUM drew a raven perched on the bell. 

By the end of the match, after going through topics like, “naughty Pokemon,” “if food could talk,” “Simpsons yourself,” “Don’t eat that,” and more, the drawing board was left with an overwhelming mess of doodles. Among them you could barely make out two super-villain-looking hosts looking on while an evil rat shot a Simpson-ed, bloody DIETANIUM, who was being attacked by a crashing plane from the top and Kirby from the bottom — just as the Kirby spat out a talking burger, which itself spat out another taco. Despite the torture that Simpson DIETANIUM suffered, the real DIETANIUM emerged victorious in the end. 

The next match was between the kommissar Red Erin and the upstart rookie Slash Laroux. The two battled, Red Erin drawing a cat that projectile-vomited on Slash Laroux’s self-portrait and the chest full of student loan debt that they were thankful for. Slash Laroux liked to pick on the referee and draw sarcastic interpretations of topics. For example, Slash Laroux drew a globe with a “Vacancy” sign for the topic “the world in 2099.” Slash won the match. 

This match was followed by a performance by musical act Sexyful. The band’s flamboyant lead singer, sporting an orange mohawk, blingy clothes and a t-shirt that was a pattern made of just the face of one of the hosts, introduced himself as Baron Von Sexyful and also introduced fellow band members Sexycool (an unsmiling bassist wearing sunglasses indoors) and Sexyfool (the drummer dressed as a jester). The band performed many humorous songs, including one in which they brought host Ross Nover on stage and roasted him during the song.

The grand finale was between champion General Stormsketch and the winner of the first round, DIETANIUM. General Stormsketch began the round by drawing a chicken burger from Popeye’s, after he received a large envelope from Rave Royale which read, in neon letters, “Avenge me.” 

Following the pattern of all the upsets from the night, the newcomer DIETANIUM defeated the reigning champion Stormsketch with roaring applause from the audience. 

This was perhaps the strangest event I have ever attended. It wasn’t just the absurd premise of the show that made it so amazing. It was also the audience, buzzing with energy all night. Many people in the audience had been to SAF multiple times and were returning for more. They were leading the crowd in chanting during countdowns and the “wheel of death” spins. 

The artists are tattoo artists, graphic designers and art teachers by day, and they showed dedication toward playing their explosive and dramatic wrestling alter-egos on stage. On top of that, the hosts offered engaging commentary. All in all, this was one of the most fun nights I’ve ever had.

I will definitely be going to the next SAF, and I highly recommend you do too. 

Comments powered by Disqus

Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The News-Letter.