THE ARENA

HANNAH VALENTINE

17 June – 1 August 2015

An empty gym. A stage. A timer set to 2 minute intervals. The chance to improve, get stronger, think more of ones-self.

Taking inspiration from the fast-paced evolution of new gym fads, Muay Thai and Crossfit communities, I am interested in what it means to have a body in the 21st century.

‘The very idea of fitness is a strange and perverted thing. It’s a function of our biological makeup made redundant by our advanced economies: by the division of labour, by supply chains and logistics, by electricity and motors – a situation exacerbated, furthermore, by vastly increased calorific consumption set against decreasing levels of physical activity.’[1]

The instinctive, necessity-driven fitness of the hunter-gatherer, long eliminated from our lifestyle, has been replaced with disciplined, systematic ways to stay fit, which incorporate machinery and new technologies. Movements are calculated and measured, progress tracked. The desire to be constantly improving takes hold.

Workout:

21 – 15 – 9 – 15 – 21
Thrusters (20/25kg)
BW Dips
Walking plank

Time?

A nod towards Franz Erhard Walter’s Action Objects of the 1960’s, where the viewer’s participation was integral to the work, action is here implied. Objects are seductive props that resist full functionality. We want ‘the body’ the fitness industry offers, and we want it now, but the tools don’t seem to be working.
Over twenty years ago, in ‘A Cyborg Manifesto’, Donna Harraway points out that ‘Our machines are disturbingly lively, and we ourselves frighteningly inert.’[2] The liveliness of our machines, and further, of digital technologies, is now such that our perception of the human body is, more often than not, one step removed, mediated through a virtual lens. Need to improve your ‘clean and jerk’? Easy, take a look on YouTube. Hito Steyerl comments on the fiction of reality:

‘HS: For me, the whole issue of the relationship between, let’s say, image life, what we used to call representation, and so-called reality. The thing formerly called real life has already become deeply imaged. And it is about finding different forms of circulation, even physically altering the infrastructure, since existing circuits are controlled by governments and corporations.’[3]

Reality is slippery, as, I wonder, is the grounding of our perception of the body in space.

Hannah Valentine is an Auckland based artist, who graduated with a BA/BFA (hons 1st class) from Elam in 2012. Her practice is based around the body, movement and participation. Her work takes form primarily in object, performance, and documentary style film. Recent exhibitions include At-one-moment, Pilot Space, Hamilton (2014); Racquet Service, Window, Auckland (2014); and The Assemblage Show, The Vivian, Matakana (2015).

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[1] Jacob, Sam. ‘How culture (and the odd retired military type) shapes our bodies’ October (2013)
[2] Haraway, Donna, ‘A cyborg Manifesto: Science, technology and socialist-feminism in the late twentieth century’, (Originally published 1991). The Cybercultures Reader. Bell, D. and Kennedy B. Routledge, 2000. p294
[3] Steyerl, Hito. ‘Techniques of the Observer: Hito Steyerl and Laura Poitras in conversation’, Artforum, May 2015. p313-314.

> The Arena.pdf