The Awareness Muscle Training Center: The Boxing Partner

The awareness muscle training center, Geoffroy’s exhibition at Museum Villa Stuck in Munich, Germany, is currently in its 5th day and much has developed in that time. The exhibition features a presentation of nearly 40 critical runs and various interactive sculpture fitness-like machines that each serve a metaphorical purpose to engage visitors in different topics and awareness building exercises at each station.

The way the training works is that an instructor, a person specially delegated this role for the exhibition, takes a member of the public who is visiting the exhibition (a visitor) on a 10-20 minute training routine, making use of 6 out of 8 fitness machines included in the exhibition, and answering pointed questions that are specific to each of the different machines. Each machine has a different topic, intended to awaken the awareness muscle and challenge the visitor’s current views of themselves, their actions and their surroundings. The routine follows a set structure, gradually highlighting different aspects that are important in building the visitors awareness muscle.  

The routine begins with the boxing machine. This machine is a punching bag in the form of a man-shaped figure, a dummy, that for the duration of the exhibition dons a headband with the word “FEAR” printed in red marker across it. This machine is all about fear and is the activation point for the awareness muscle training routine.

The machine has a dual function: to warm up both their muscles and their inquisitive and critical capacity. The physical component i.e. punching the dummy, can serve to expunge the user’s frustration and negativity, while the added fact that the dummy takes on a human likeness opens up more values to question: do I see this dummy as myself, or another person? What makes me more uncomfortable? Why? The machine is activated with the question: “What do you fear?” This is usually a confrontation on the visitor and sets the tone for how the routine will continue; psychoanalytical, introspective and self-critical.

So far, the measurement of responses has been compiled in the form of interviews with the instructors. Their experiences with the machine have shown similarities and differences, in sometimes surprising ways. The most common fears that came up were the fear of being alone, of bad things happening to those they love, societal deterioration, climate change and the decline of democracy. Many people stated they had no fear but reconsidered this as the training continued.

Instructors reported a difference in the openness of the visitors based on age but not gender, but mostly stated that it varied greatly from individual to individual. The instructors reported a difference in the approach to answering was very often associated with age, reporting that older people were more aware of what their fears were and also considered the question for longer, while younger people were quicker to open up but showed less conviction in their answers. When asked whether fear was positive or negative, the majority said it was both; citing fear as a motivating or stabilizing factor leading to better behaviour, but also that it could hold them back.

There were also many discrepancies in the responses to the machine itself; some people shying away from punching the machine at all, stating its humanoid appearance as a detracting factor, while others were more interested in punching than answering questions.
The act of punching worked well as a fuel, functioning as a stimulus for the visitor to reach deeper into their own psyche, pulling out their fears and questioning the reasons behind them.