Thoughts & Insights

OUBEY and the Fosbury Flop

If I’ve chosen to write about OUBEY and the Fosbury Flop today, it’s because I was inspired by the brilliant introductory talk Professor Peter Kruse gave at the opening night of the OUBEY Global Encounters Tour in Berlin two weeks ago.

Dick Fosbury was the first high jumper to use this particular technique which consists of a rapid approach to the bar with the final steps being run in a curve producing rotation of the jumper’s body on take-off which gives the now characteristic “backwards over the bar” appearance. At the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City, his fellow competitors were smiling at Fosbury with a mixture of compassion and amusement just one hour before he jumped his way clean to Olympic Gold.

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Yet after he won the Olympic Gold medal by being the only athlete in the competition to clear the 2.24 meter bar with the “crazy”, idiosyncratic technique he himself had developed, the amused pity of his fellow athletes turned to jaw-dropping amazement. And the crowd in the stadium rose to their feet and roared their approval.

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If I understand his talk correctly, I think that Peter Kruse used this example to show that the autonomy of discovery needs to strike out in new directions and engage with new possibilities that free it from conventional ways of perception and thinking. Independence is a key condition for a free-ranging inquiring endlessly curious mind, because without autonomy there can be no successful crossing of mental frontiers and established borderlines.

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In his own particular way of thinking and acting, OUBEY was one such fiercely independent free-ranging traveler between different worlds. Now this is nothing new and Professor Kruse had already remarked on it over three years ago in his Encounter with one of OUBEYs paintings. What is new and has come to the fore since Kruse‘s talk in Berlin is the striking similarity that exists between the approaches taken by Dick Fosbury and OUBEY, even though the two of them were active in completely different disciplines and completely different contexts.

Obviously unlike Fosbury, OUBEY was not intent on setting a new world record and winning Olympic Gold. But what they both have in common is that neither of them was prepared to submit to the dictates of established value systems that lay down the law on “how you’ve got to jump”. Both of them marked out their own individual territory free of the rules and mechanisms that govern the established worlds of their chosen disciplines – athletics on the one hand, art on the other. OUBEY too, if you like, jumped backwards over the bar – only his leaps were not physically measurable and didn’t take place in the public gaze of a crowded stadium but in the seclusion of his own studio where he himself was the only judge and jury. It’s only today, posthumously, that the quality of his intellectual and artistic prowess is gradually becoming apparent to the world outside.

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