Against Masculine Domination. Building the Body

Performance by Isabel Fontbona, University Girona, Spain
May 26, 2018

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.