The Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series 2012 made its fifth stop on the tour in Boston yesterday. The divers were here last year, and came back because they enjoyed the 27 meter platform affixed to the top of the Institute of Contemporary Art. Cliff diving is definitely a sport (and a pretty commercial one at that: Red Bull seems to own it, and there’s nothing quite like several thousand people guzzling Red Bull and urging on some already-wired cliff divers). And it’s not an easy sport. There are those Olympic-level acrobatics. And a person hitting the water at over 55 mph, no matter how gracefully, well, it sounds like torture. The fact that one diver yesterday had to bow out of competition because that’s what the sport does to a body was plenty evidence for me that cliff diving must feel like the way it sounds.
But why was the ICA motivated to host this sporting event? Cliff diving is certainly beautiful, and can be viewed as a form of performance art. And that ICA roof, cantilevered as it is over Boston Harbor, is just begging to have someone dive off it. Besides, the ICA’s web site says that designers Diller Scofidio + Renfro envisioned the building as a hybrid structure/work of performance art, so it becomes a canvas for what the ICA chooses to make happen there. I came away thinking it all made perfect sense. For those more interested in the sport than the art: the British diver and former world champ Gary Hunt crept out of his point deficit to push Colombian Orlando Duque into second place for the Boston leg of the tour.