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Performance by Isabel Fontbona, University Girona, Spain

»Against Masculine Domination: Building the Body«

Poetry Reading by Julia Mantel, Frankfurt am Main

»Der Bäcker gibt mir das Brot auch so«

Introduction: Ulf Wuggenig, Leuphana

May 26, 2018, 6pm

Kunstraum of Leuphana University Lüneburg, Campus Hall 25


»Against Masculine Domination: Building the Body«

Performance by Isabel Fontbona, University Girona, Spain

Female bodybuilding has been discussed as a queer practice of transgressing stereotypes of sex, gender and essentialist forms of identity, as well as a field in which, in a paradoxical way, open and veiled practices of reproduction of such stereotypes and the common-sense gender binary (especially with regard to certain types of »femininity«) can be observed.

With Isabel Fontbona from Girona in Catalonia, the Kunstraum of Leuphana has invited a performer-actress, who seeks to contribute to breaking »masculine domination« (Bourdieu) not only by producing texts and manifestos, but also by using the body and the means of performance. In this respect, she is also able to draw on her practices as a sportswoman, being informed as well about strategies in the field of artistic performance. Her performance on May 26 in the Kunstraum encompasses backstage practices – aspects of the preparation of the presentation of the self in a bodybuilding competition (e. g., tanning) as well as »imposed postings«, like those, which have to shown in competition. In this context not only the demonstration of muscles is demanded, but also the manifestation of signs of the »sex category« (Candace West and Don Zimmerman), i.e., »femininity« which in some competition rules is expressly described with words such as »female aesthetic« or «feminine charisma« as evaluation criteria of the jury.«

Isabel Fontbona gained a Philosophy B. A. and an Art History B.A. as well as a Master’s Degree in Introduction to Humanity Research at Universitat de Girona, Spain. In 2016, she joined »Theories of Contemporary Art,« a research group of this university, being awarded with a Pre-doctoral Scholarship Program. She is currently writing her dissertation about discipline and hybris in the field of sports, underlining female bodybuilders. Her research involves theorizing body identity, representation, performance, and gender. She is also pursuing a successful sports career as a »natural bodybuilding« competitor, being vice WNBB world champion in 2017 in this context. She did bodybuilding performances and gave lectures on this theme in several university contexts in 2017 (Hildesheim University, Germany; Ghent University, Belgium; Euroacademia Project, Lucca, Italy, and University of Girona, Spain).

At Leuphana University Isabel Fontbona is directing a seminar in the M. A. program »Culture, Arts and Media« on »Building the body, transgressing beauty standards, doing gender« together with Laura Lopèz Paniagua (Berlin / Madrid) and Ulf Wuggenig (Leuphana). It is part of the project with her of the same name, the first results of which based on ethnographic research (photo interview, photo elicitation) will be presented at the »Bourdieu Study Group« 2nd Biennial International Conference »Reproduction and Resistance«of the British Sociological Association (BSA) at Lancaster University, UK, in July 2018 by Cornelia Kastelan (Kunstverein Nürnberg – Albrecht Dürer Gesellschaft), Isabel Fontbona and Ulf Wuggenig.


»Der Bäcker gibt mir das Brot auch so«

Poetry Reading by Julia Mantel, Frankfurt am Main

The start of the Kunstraum event of May 26, however, will be made by Julia Mantel from Frankfurt am Main, after an introduction by Ulf Wuggenig. Julia Mantel participated in several early Kunstraum projects as a student of cultural studies and analysis at the University of Lueneburg in the 1990s. Although she was also active in the field of contemporary art after graduating, she chose literature as her primary field, not as a mediator but as an autonomous producer. In this universe of cultural production, she became a writer of poetry working at a great distance to the commercial pole.

Her third volume of poems – »Der Bäcker gibt mir das Brot auch so« (http://editionfaust.de/produkt/der-baecker-gibt-mir-das-brot-auch-so/) containing around sixty pöms – has just been published in May 2018 by edition Faust, Frankfurt am Main. Julia Mantel engages not only with »precarity« but also with themes such as the »body« and the »masculine principle,« which is the reason why she was invited by the Kunstraum to her alma mater for not only a reading but a joint event with a performance and short lecture by Isabel Fontbona. As a guest of the accompanying project seminar »Building the Body,« Julia Mantel assumed the role of commemorating the punk pöt Kathy Acker, who distinguished herself in the fields of literature and feminism – see her »Against Ordinary Language. The Language of the Body,« 1993 – not least by reflecting on the problem of writing regarding her own practice of body building.

Since 2005 Julia Mantel has also been running a label as a designer, producing a »hand-knit collection« with a telling name alluding to the widespread precarity in the fields of non-commercial cultural production, »unvermittelbar« [»unemployable«, http://www.unvermittelbar.de]. In this frame, Julia Mantel produces textiles in cooperation with various designers, which in the ethno-methodological theoretical reference frame of »doing gender« (Candace West and Don Zimmerman) can be attributed to the group of paraphernalia resp. signs of the »sex category« whose social function consists not least in reproducing a gender binary deeply rooted in the system of »masculine domination« and the doxa of the »people« mentally penetrated by this structure. When Julia Mantel said she was willing to produce these types of signs for the performance of Isabel Fontbona, it was not only with the intention of ironically breaking with the competition bikinis customary in the regulated field of female bodybuilding, but also to contribute to reflectively shedding light on aspects of the social process of constructing or naturalizing gender, including the paradoxical effects of female bodybuilding.