Gymnauseum: 'Pimping' of Body and Machine
Sebastian Di Mauro
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This thesis is based on my PhD studio project, Gymnauseum, which uses chindogu, a Japanese creative form for intentionally producing absurd and useless design objects (Kawakami, 1995), as a starting point. Gymnauseum is a pseudo-gym in which visitors can ride absurd and nonsensical fitness machines that question the obsession with obtaining (and retaining) an ‘ideal body’. The fitness machine sculptures in Gymnauseum are also, in a sense, ‘ideal bodies’; long, lean, and shiny, they are based on customised 1960s’ ‘low-rider’ bikes with ridiculously extended front forks. These mid-life-crisis ‘Harleyesque’ exercycles reinforce the notion that that exercising on the spot on treadmills, steppers and bikes going nowhere is a metaphor for perpetually trying to make up lost ground in an effort to recapture the body of one’s youth. In this thesis, I engage with the work of relevant critical theorists who explore how power and control are exercised over the body. For example, Michel Foucault’s notion of the docile body is pivotal for understanding how the discipline of repetitive exercise and loss of personal autonomy are linked (Foucault 1979). His analysis of Jeremy Bentham’s panopticon prison system can also be applied to the contemporary gymnasium, whereby the possibility of constant surveillance by other gym users and personal trainers creates a self-regulating system of discipline (Frew and McGillivray 2005). I present absurd ‘fitness equipment’ within a mirrored pseudo gym environment to discuss how power and control over the ‘docile body’ is also perpetuated through our relationship with the machine.
Thesis (PhD Doctorate)
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Queensland College of Art
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