Francesca Steele in 2009. Photographer: Simon Keitch.

Bodily texts

This blog forms part of a body of research that aims to generate new artistic and academic works, through a process of reflection of past performance work, but also ‘doing’ or selective re-enactment in the present. 

This work began over 10 years ago in 2008. Profoundly inspired by both Kathy Acker’s own bodybuilding practice and her question “Is the relationship between destruction and growth also a formula for Art?” (1993, p.23). My artistic practice engaged with bodybuilding specifically as a daily performance strategy but also as an activity, that denotes my body ‘working material’. I have had two main periods of exploration, the initial period of competitive bodybuilding between 2008-2012 and more recent active reflective from 2019 to present.

As part of this current reflection I aim to shift bodybuilding from an artistic practice to a research methodology incorporating a written process (first response and generative writing) in tandem with the physical and consequential changes within the body. These combined re-workings intend to reframe the body’s potential as a way into a sentient archive of ephemeral, Live Art and performance artwork. 

We are crossing a new threshold of politicisation of our bodies as we enter the second month of lockdown in the UK. Since my research took place in a gym, my original plan has halted, and I am adapting my work to find a way to continue. This blog becomes part of the doing and undoing of the work, it will chart progress and disruption as we move through social distancing measures. 

Here I will house the raw material. I will add moving image and various depictions of training – these will act as my ‘first response’ images, notes or sketches. My aim is for it to be easily accessible and link to other platforms.

Francesca Steele, April 2020.

Acker, K. (1993) Against Ordinary Language: The Language of the Body. In Arthur and Marilouise Kroker (eds), The Last Sex: Feminism and Outlaw Bodies. New York: Macmillan. pp.23-27.