The Lifting Machine

The Awareness Muscle Training Centre exhibition at Museum Villa Stuck makes use of several different exercise machines to engage visitors in a unique training program. The machines form a circuit with each machine working on a different aspect of awareness muscle training. The lifting machine is the second apparatus in the routine and involves visitors lifting their body weight with their arms. The machine can be used in different ways (lifting the legs while putting pressure on the forearms, using the triceps to pull up the whole body, etc.) as the most important muscle being trained is the visitors’ awareness. 

It is called the lifting machine as it questions visitors’ standpoints towards their goals and ambitions. From the French “s’élever”, the machine confronts visitors with where they want to elevate themselves to; on a spiritual level. During the questioning, most people answer the question based off of their financial or career oriented goals, when asked to consider the question from a spiritual level, many people said they wanted to be happy, others mentioning the importance of  being self-aware and mindful of how they treat others and how they treat the world. Age played an important role as the responses varied with how far in life people were. A vast majority of responses concerned looking after family members, that their children should have a good start in life and that they help their children reach their goals. Almost all participants said that it was very important to have goals, some even looking down on those who didn’t, while some said it was okay to not have goals.  One participant said she wanted to find home, that she had never found a place where she really felt at home, another stated that he had no goals anymore as he had achieved everything. Many people stated a connection between a lack of personal goals and being lost in life. 

The physical effort required to use the machine can work to either stall the visitor or encourage them (it differs based on the visitors personal response and fitness level), but the metaphorical purpose of the machine actually works in combination with this; the machine also deals with personal guilt and the heaviness of humanity. The question “where do you want to lift yourself to?” is dealing with the need for people to feel good, to help them to consider themselves from a positive angle, to respond to their goals and dreams and realize what is important to them, for themselves and for the world. Every machine in the circuit considers a different aspect of humanity; the lifting machine is centred around the idea of self-responsibility and self-care. The effort required to lift yourself physically speaks to the effort it takes to uplift yourself as a human. People are often consumed with negativity and guilt and stand in their own way; taking the effort to lift yourself is a response to this. The intersection between art and spirituality has concerned artists for a long time, Wassily Kandinsky, while also based in Munich, wrote a book on the topic (Concerning the Spiritual in Art) in the early 20th Century and Geoffroy uses his training circuit to question this connection along the same vein. Through engaging directly with the public in the awareness muscle training center, he takes the question from the theoretical to the literal.

Text by Elena Hansen