John F. Kennedy had a special sense of priority. In December 1960, a month after winning the U.S. presidential election and before he had gone through the investiture process, he published an article titled soft american (Soft American) in a magazine sports illustrations. In a tone between epic and cautionary, John F. Kennedy lamented that American men—apparently the female half of the population was left out of the message—were…
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John F. Kennedy had a special sense of priority. In December 1960, a month after winning the U.S. presidential election and before he had gone through the investiture process, he published an article titled soft american (Soft American) in a magazine sports illustrations. In a tone between epic and exhortation, John F. Kennedy lamented that American men—apparently the female half of the population was left out of the message—indulged in a sedentary lifestyle that posed a “safety hazard” in the face of threat. communist.
The text began with a longing for the strong and athletic bodies of the citizens of ancient Greece and ended with an announcement of urgent measures to bring the youth of his country to this ideal. “Only if our citizens are physically healthy will they be fully capable of such efforts,” he said. Then, in a six-page photo essay, the president-elect set an example that, in his case, meant going out to sea in a sailboat and walking along the beach in regalia – Americana from tweed, polo shirt and chinos – more or less casual for that time, but hardly sporty.
In those days, the obsession with the two-headed monster of communism and nuclear collapse was at its peak: in 1962, the Cuban Missile Crisis would erupt, which would put the world in suspense and redefine the way the two great powers managed their affairs. relationship. Perhaps not coincidentally, this coincided with the birth of a culture fitness, which has been growing steadily since then. In turn, in recent decades, nuclear terror has lost its preeminence, giving way to climate change, another global challenge capable of reactivating the apocalyptic imagination. Perhaps it’s time to think about what kind of physical form is required to adapt to this other threat. Or deal with it.
This is what Clima Fitness, the project of the Intermediae space of the Matadero Madrid Cultural Center, is about, which includes an exhibition and a program of events that will run until July 2024. Its curator, Mayte Borjabad, defines it as “a form of thinking about how to find new ways to adapt to the environment that are not extractive, that reflect climate change, and the cultural and social barriers that brought us to the current situation.” It is important to note that the English word fitness It has two meanings: one refers to a strong and healthy physical condition, and the other, more generally, to the ability to adapt to a particular goal or environment. This duality is what guides the content of Clima Fitness.
Its source is an article published in 2019 by architects Igor Bragado and Miles Gertler, partners of the Common Accounts design and research bureau, in a specialized magazine Log, titled Planet Fitness: Anthropo Frontierism and Survival of the Fittest (Planet Fitness: anthropofrontierism and survival of the fittest or those who are fittest). This text formed the basis of the report. Planet Fitness, which the same authors published in June 2020, where several examples are collected illustrating the relationship between the desire to achieve an athletic body and the climate emergency. Perhaps most revealing is the case of Les Mills, an international gym chain founded by New Zealand athlete and politician Leslie Roy Mills, who, under the motto You are better, the planet is better (“The Better You Are, the Better the Planet”) has been involved in initiatives such as planting trees or installing solar-powered water systems in African countries.
Another case pointed out by members of Common Accounts involves music artist Grimes, who was a partner in businessman Elon Musk, a major investor in green electric vehicle company Tesla and in aerospace company SpaceX, which was ultimately destined to send humans to other planets. in the face of our delicate situation. In a March 2019 tweet, Grimes went into great detail about his grueling daily routine. fitnessrevealed that he slept with a humidifier to reduce the dryness of the environment, and mentioned some of the surgical modifications he had made to his body, including tampering with his eyeballs to protect them from blue light.
“A person has a desire to save himself from this crisis, and this is where these case studies come from,” explains Igor Bragado. The idea that the healthier our body is, the healthier the planet will be, or vice versa, covers a very wide range of options, ranging from the practice of veganism based on sound environmental and medical arguments, as well as ethical ones, to the aforementioned Les Mills training programs, where relationships are formulated not within the framework of a rational order, but almost pass into the realm of the mystical. “All these cases point to a new relationship between the body and the planet that the climate crisis is revealing,” concludes Bragado.
Bragado and Gertler highlight in their essay the tension that lies between the goal of saving our world, the success of which requires collective work, and the growing efforts to achieve normative physical fitness, an essentially individualistic desire that the network society has contributed to exacerbate “This attitude pervades the logic of the very carbon capitalism and exacerbates self-concern, which can only point to one’s own doom. It’s indicative of an obsession with the aesthetics of the body as a lifeboat when it may not end up being one.”
Common Accounts Components has designed a large installation occupying the 17th nave of Matadero, in which the sculptures and screens of video art are integrated into the elements that make up the sample. Some elements consisting of metal platforms equipped with wheels, as well as hydraulic levers, weights, cables or handles. The texts of the exhibition are printed on towels hung from heated towel rails, the seats are boxing bags placed on the floor, and the space is limited by crossbars made in the form of gymnastic bars. “These are adaptable devices that train themselves by rehearsing the movements of pulling, pushing, lifting, rolling, rotating in support of an artistic charge that similarly treats the body in relation to the planet and environment,” describes Miles Gertler. The prevailing aesthetic is what will come out of the gym merger. high-tech with the car fair. A round stage with exercise bikes and IV bags was placed in the center for some of the program activities. “His form is linked to the very dynamics of training, which tend to be repeated over and over again,” explains Igor Bragado. “But it also has wheels, so it’s mobile, but it can’t move, like many of the climate policies being implemented.”
Artwork signed by Turkish creator Faisal Altunbozar, British Ibie Camp, Chinese-American Mary Magic and Spanish Itizar Barrio and Irati Inoriza that also raise interrelated questions and with a central theme such as toxic masculinity, colonialism, redefining the space we live in , conflict adaptation to the environment, or the relationship between work, body, and personality, seems to rival the visual strength of the framework Common Accounts has designed to house them.
However, in some cases an interesting concordance between form and content is achieved, as in the work Faster, higher, stronger, created by Mary Magic, in which visitors can pedal on an exercise bike to power a bioreactor that produces SCOBY, a culture of bacteria and yeast that is part of Kombucha, a typical health drink of modern times. This suggests the possibility of constructive and sustainable cooperation between species.
“But this exhibition is not about sustainability,” explains Miles Gertler. “It’s about how we deal with climate change at the body scale. How this climate change is affecting our daily lives and how we are changing because of it.”
There is a risk that this central thematic trunk will also become blurred in the face of the exhibition’s many themes. Curator Maite Borjabad sees Clima Fitness as a space for reflection on all of these issues, so scheduled activities are an important factor. “It’s about doing reconnaissance to see all the implications that come into play. For example, we are going to announce a video art competition that will be included in the exhibition later, as well as a series of conferences and speeches which will take place at two points, one in November and the other in February. We want to create conversations that bring together different voices from the artistic and academic worlds.”
Clima Fitness aims to contribute to the development of proposals aimed at combating climate change, which seems to be a huge threat, but should not call for inaction. Here is how Borjabad puts it in the curatorial text: “It seems that we are more ready to visualize the end of the world than imagine another world.”
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