In his work, Erik Levine focuses on the symbols and rituals of masculinity. He explores them as explicitly embodied in sports. After analyzing the norms of the more usual team sports in earlier works, in Cocker he attends to cockfighting. Levine leads us into a raw, masculine game of life and death, of power, pride and honor, played by men who cheer on their champions as if they were risking their own lives. In many places, cockfighting is banned, but in some countries it is still practiced and has a long tradition, like, for example, in Puerto Rico, where Cocker was filmed.
For weeks, Levine visited different galleras, the places where the fighting cocks are raised. He didn’t just record the fighting itself: it’s more about the men and their relationship to the animals and about the rituals that evolve around raising the cockerels and preparing them to do battle. By reducing the pictures to single gestures, he impressively captures the intense relationship between man and bird. Levine’s shots don’t document or comment, rather they develop their own poetry between proximity and distance. The poetry not only communicates the fascination, but ultimately also the ‘otherness’ that strikes us when we peer into this archaic world. (Tasja Langenbach)