The Training Room 

The Awareness Muscle Training Center Exhibition at Museum Villa Stuck begins in the training room. This room is the center of the awareness muscle training format and consists of a selection of different exercise machines. These sit on carpets that are printed with pixelated images of natural crises; wildfires, the melting of icecaps, locusts eating crops, etc. 
On the walls hang more carpets, accompanied by neon, mirror-backed signs. These carpets are printed with Geoffroy’s own sketches and these and the neon signs all include direct, powerful slogans, such as “Push back the Propaganda!”, “Train your active empathy muscle” and “The moment of change WAS now”. These slogans grab the audience’s attention and are a starting point to understanding the theory behind Geoffroy’s exhibition.  

The training room is the interactive hub of the exhibition; the carpets act as an introduction and a signal of the exhibition’s themes to the visitor, while the machines provide a physical engagement to the visitor. Instructors clad in neon pink and yellow workout clothes, invite the visitors to participate in a training routine. Unlike in the gym, the purpose of this routine is not to gain muscles or improve strength, rather to train the visitors awareness of their own actions and positions in regard to empathy, apathy, power, fear and personal responsibility. The instructors are a team of volunteers specially in charge of conducting the interviews. The questions that the instructors ask, follow the topic of the given machine: a boxing dummy deals with fear, an exercise bike revolves around visitors empathy and apathy, a pull down machine questions visitors notions of power and order, a shoulder and chest machine named the “papillon” (due to its resemblance to a butterfly when in use) focuses on what impact the user feels they can make in the world and how much responsibility they take upon themselves. The last machine involves no exercise and the visitors are asked to reflect on their lives and how they feel about what they have done with it. The routine can differ in time length, sometimes taking ten minutes and sometimes taking much longer, depending on the willingness of the visitor to open up and engage with the topics. 

The training room functions as an activation point; it is reaching out to the visitors, attempting to wake them up, to consider their own place in the world and to be aware of what is going on around them. Engaging in the routine in this room can change the visitor’s approach to the rest of the exhibition. It is easy to go to a museum, to feel informed on issues of injustice or corruption and leave feeling like you have done something. The training room aims to get visitors to contemplate what their own position in everything is. There are rowing machines with mirrored images of refugees drowning, set in front of a neon yellow carpet inscribed with the statement “Beeing a passif witness makes me a criminal”. This is after the notion that if you witness a crime and do nothing, you become guilty by association. Doing nothing is still an action.

The training room is important in its connection to the rest of the exhibition. It centres the visitor’s ideas of the goals of the awareness muscle training format and while ascending the spiral staircase to the rooms above, visitors are left to reflect on their ideas of the world and themselves. They observe the rest of the exhibition as an extension of these concepts and feel personally involved in the subject matter. The training room connects to the strategy room as an ensuing opportunity of action, while the energy room amplifies their mindset to consider a broader audience. It should inspire self-reflective questioning: Where do I stand in the world? Where does everyone else? Could I be doing more? Should we all?  

The purpose of the training routine is not to fill the visitor with guilt or fear; Geoffroy does not aim to create an energy of hypocrisy and shame, but rather wishes to inspire a drive for change in his audience. While in situ, as visitors test their physical ability, they are pulled into a deeper, personal search at the same time. The combination of physical effort and self-evaluation can hopefully stimulate a reconsidered and more precise level of awareness, on an individual and global scale. 

Text by Elena Hansen