The presentation of the male body is paramount within extreme male bodybuilding: bodies are not judged on what they are capable of but solely on how they look. To succeed, bodybuilders couple an intense physical training routine with a dedicated preening regimen.
In 1980, Joe Weider addressed what he describes as „a cultural shift” an rebranded his most successful bodybuilding publication Muscle Builder as Muscle and Fitness. With this rebranding came a subtle yet noticeable change in the advertising that it featured. The extreme muscularity of the male bodies started to be presented as objects and mechanical objects were presented as bodies. The classic visual signifiers of objectification were made more apparent; (isolation of specific body parts, decapitation and removal of an identity) visual tropes that had been more commonly associated with the sexualisation of the female form. With their subjects in a state of activity, „flex’’or „pump” these representations seek to encourage the male viewer to admire the apparent physical strength, yet never lust after the sculpted body. This ideology is reinforced via another commonly used visual construction of hetero-masculinity, in which these bodies attain not only an identity but also become the possession of a female admirer. The homoerotic overtones associated with an identified heterosexual male viewer gazing upon a hyper-muscular male body provide some insight into the way in which these advertisements are constructed. Via the act of re-photographing, re-printing, enlarging, cutting, mounting and balancing, Morrison presents a selected number of photographs used in advertisements from Muscle and Fitness (1980 to 89) outside of their original visual context. The cut-out images in „Ripped, Chiseled and Rock Hard” have not been manipulated and remain as they were found in their magazine, with no alterations made other than enlarging the image after tracing its outline and removing it from its background.
BRIAN J. MORRISON
Brian J Morrison’s practice is built on an engagement with the social theory of heteronormative masculinity and aims to offer a critical enquiry into the hegemonic forces in place that instill regressive gender codes. Primarily using appropriated, gender encoded, advertising imagery, he creates works that relate to the actions, motions and rituals of extreme bodybuilding. These works attempt to activate an interaction that re-examines a relationship with the visual commercial world.
For the past two years he has been interrogating the discourse surrounding the imagery produced by Joe Weider’s publishing empire (the world’s leading fitness magazine publisher) and the legacy it created within this intensely gendered area of society. The output of these investigations has resulted in the production of sculptural – yet inherently flat – objects.
Studio Capri, at Syson Gallery / Nottingham, UK (2015)
No Pain No Gain!!! / at Supercollider / Blackpool, UK (2014)
Ripped, Chiseled Rock Hard / The Belfast Photography Festival, UK (2013)
Out of the Ordinary / at The Naughton Gallery Queens / Belfast, UK (2014).