Genève Brossard

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Genève Brossard's MPhil/PhD Art research project

Irresolute Bodies and the Politics of Representation: The Female Boxer in Contemporary Art

The female boxer is a useful cipher to unpack visual and cultural questions of representation and abstract sensation as they are addressed in contemporary art-making. In this context I am interested in a dual use of the subject: the female boxer is both a historical metaphor and an example of physicality that is not totally captured by semantic, cultural definition. I will discuss representation as it exists both in the sociological definition of the boxing body and as a method of presentation in art, with the intention of articulating an understanding of the subject that allows for it’s inconclusivity as a lived body.

Brian Massumi’s approach to the body in Parables of the Virtual is helpful because he aims to destabilize methods of signification by putting corporeal matter and physical movement back into the consideration of the body. “In motion, a body is in an immediate, unfolding relation to its own non-present potential to vary.” The charge of indeterminacy as carried by a body is inseparable from it as long as the body is dynamic and alive. Paradoxically this quality of the actual, living body is incorporeal. It is real, material and its inconclusiveness makes it difficult to capture and situate in defining discourse. Although it cannot exist fully in the realm of theory, it is still incorporeal.

Via a real-material-but-incorporeal version of the female boxing subject, my project engages with particular works of contemporary art that are attempting an alteration of our existing interpretations of the body. Beginning with an address of the sociological depiction of the subject as it is revealed in art, I describe the ways in which the boxing body is functioning and being defined as a static literal signifier. I then consider the need to dismantle gender construction as it frames the boxing body in art and theory. Finally, I focus on the moving female boxing body as a generative prism suggesting ways in which art is engaged with the ensuing spectrum.

My method for bridging the abstract and the concrete, the literal and the sensate, prioritizes the experience of the female boxer. Foregrounding it as a process of deviance that de-classifies the body as it occurs in art.