Sting Like a Butterfly, Float Like a Bee. Vulnerability, Representation, and Vacillation: The Female Boxer in Contemporary Art
Brossard, Genève. 2017. Sting Like a Butterfly, Float Like a Bee. Vulnerability, Representation, and Vacillation: The Female Boxer in Contemporary Art. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]
Abstract or Description
This PhD aims to create a reading strategy for the subject of the female boxer in order to intervene in the ways in which this figure is utilized and understood in contemporary culture. Ultimately, I am positing the limits of social constructivism and social science as a way to understand the boxing body and, specifically, the female boxer. Readings arising out of the philosophy of phenomenology, among other areas of thought, are more useful as a way to understand and capture this. Art can draw on the difference and also the intersection between these understandings, as well as add new meanings to our thinking around the subject.
I am considering the female boxer as a cipher to explore questions around the representation and vulnerability of moving bodies. My interest is in the contradictions present in the plurality of the subject; on the one hand, a political need exists to count the particular body of the female boxer as a body that matters; on the other hand, the female boxing body is an example of physicality and potentiality that is not totally captured by current semantic, cultural definition. I will discuss depictions and conceptualizations that exist both in the sociological definition of the boxing body and in methods of artistic representation, with the intention of articulating an understanding of the subject that allows for its inconclusivity as a lived body.
Brian Massumi writes, “in motion, a body is in an immediate, unfolding relation to its own non-present potential to vary.” The charge of indeterminacy as carried by a body is inseparable from it, as long as the body is dynamic and alive. This thesis describes, addresses, and challenges the ways in which the female boxing body is functioning and being defined as a sociological signifier, specifically the practice of gender construction as it frames the boxing body in art and theory. Via an understanding of the female boxer as vacillating, as being both irresolute and situated, my project engages with particular works of contemporary art that are attempting an alteration of our existing interpretations of the subject. My ultimate intention is to elucidate the becoming female boxer as a generative prism, and to investigate the ways in which art could be engaging with the ensuing spectrum.