a woman speaking in to a microphone reporting on a MMA match.

If It Bleeds

Isabelle Pauwels
Friday, October 12, 2018 at 7PM

Commissioned and produced by EMPAC, If It Bleeds is a moving-image work inspired by recent events in the world of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA). Historically, MMA was promoted as something very distinct from both boxing—a sport so corrupt that the best hardly ever fight the best—and from pro wrestling, which is totally scripted and driven by mic skills, costumes, and bad acting. But in seeking to expand the audience, MMA promoters increasingly court the artifice of wrestling to privilege the showman over the sportsman. If It Bleeds follows the fighters, commissioners, reporters and a promoter as they battle through post-fight pressers, promotional tours, and disciplinary hearings. The narrative unfolds in a game of one-upmanship as the characters are seduced by their public image and driven by the fiction that everything happens “for a reason.” If It Bleeds uses the pageantry of sports-entertainment to explore the grotesque and sublime spectacle that is everyday survival.

Canadian artist Isabelle Pauwels works primarily in video and installation. Her blend of performance and documentary realism explores the fraught relationship between narrative conventions and everyday social interaction. If It Bleeds follows Pauwels’s 2014 EMPAC-commissioned multimedia performance ,000,.

Main Image: Isabelle Pauwels, If It Bleeds. Production still: Mick Bello/EMPAC.

an eagle holding a snake attacking a cupcake.

Main Image: Isabelle Pauwels, If It Bleeds. Paula Court/EMPAC.

Dates + Tickets

Time-Based Visual Art
If It Bleeds
Isabelle Pauwels
Friday 12
7:00 PM
October 2018
$16/$13/$6/EMPAC+ Free
Buy Tickets
As part of


Production Credits

If It Bleeds is supported by Canada Council for the Arts and British Columbia Arts Council.


EMPAC 2018–19 presentations, residencies, and commissions are supported by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Jaffe Fund for Experimental Media and Performing Arts.