GYMNASIA 2017 / Burnie Pulp Mill (Tasmania)
Gymnasia was part of the 2017 'Ten Days on the Island Festival' and 'Sites of Love and Neglect', curated by Jane Deeth, located in what was once the ball room/cafeteria at the Burnie Paper Mill (Tasmania).
Gymnasia was a large-scale installation that transformed the ballroom into a fictitious boxing gym. Pieced together from an array of second hand materials, house hold furniture and recycled textiles, the rudimentary equipment in Gymnasia with its deliberately clunky fabrication, evoked the contradictions, tensions, and pleasures which underscore the constructed performance of European Australian masculinity today.
Commensurate with Australia’s love of all things physical, boxing and the boxing gym have long been regarded as important expressions of Australian masculine virility. The boxing gym is a proving ground that weeds out the weak, the in effective and the cowardly. Echoing with refrains such as real men take it ‘on the chin’, real men ‘tough it out’, ‘work harder’ and ‘push on through’, the gym promotes a particular code of masculinity. In effect the boxing gym presents as a type of liminal space where mind, body and desire meet. Here in this fantastical place the ideal of bodily perfection is conflated with questions of gender, agency and power.
In the boxing gym as with the broader patriarchal order, heterosexual masculinity continues to be defined around the stereotypes of strength, aggression and violence. Gymnasia subsequently explores the restrictive and corrosive effect that the patriarchal gaze has upon heterosexual masculinity. Drawing upon the comic, the absurd and the playful, the various components that make up Gymnasia, critically engage with the problematic representation and performance of masculinity. From the boxing ring with inflatable men, to the punching bags constructed from used blanket material, and the heavy weights made from soccer balls, the work in Gymnasia deconstructs Australian European masculinity at the same time it also foregrounds the possible re-constitution of different forms of heterosexual masculinity.
Part of the 'Ten Days on the Island Festival', Tasmania, 17th - 26th March 2017
Sites of Love and Neglect, curated by Jane Deeth