Awareness Muscle (art)

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The Awareness Muscle is the name of an art format by French/ Danish artist Thierry Geoffroy (a.k.a. Colonel). It has been the focus of two of the artists international art exhibitions and also features prominently in many of the artists projects; one in the Blackwood Gallery[1] in Toronto, Canada in 2007, and in an exhibition at Museum Villa Stuck[2] in Munich, Germany, in 2020, and is also a central theme of the artists practice and philosophy, revealing itself as a recurring theme within the artists art formats. A publication on the format will be released in connection with the Villa Stuck exhibition.[3]


"In the same sense memory can be trained, an awareness muscle can be developed by an effort. [...]. Daily training is necessary. But how to train? Scanning the news in a critical way could be one exercise. Daily debating politics with others could be another. Looking at other points of views usually produces significant improvements. Fighting prejudice is an excellent exercise. Many other forms of training could also produce beneficial effects for the awareness muscle. Continuous and daily training is important. For instance, rewinding and slow motioning what has been absorbed, getting away the sugar from the propaganda machines,talking to everyone, exercise comparatif, critical run. If not daily trained, the awareness muscle can degrade into atrophy. To develop the awareness muscle requires will-power." [4] - from Emergency Room Dictionary, Thierry Geoffroy.

The awareness muscle can be seen as an extension of the mind and body, it is a muscle that can be trained like any other.

The awareness muscle training can be classified and understood in three parts: the awareness muscle itself is the metaphorical concept of a unique muscle belonging to each individual that they are capable of training. This muscle is trained through educating oneself on the conflicts and biases that exist in the world. This metaphorical muscle is then coupled with actual physical training: this makes up the second aspect, the awareness muscle training. This refers to the art format: the conjunction between physical exertion and the critically engaging stimulus that builds the muscle itself. Within this is the third aspect: the use of the exercise machinery itself. Each machine is used as a powerful metaphorical motif and plays on the original function of the machine itself to create an interactive, poetic sculpture out of the machine and the participant. The awareness muscle training center refers to the conception of the format in the Museum Villa Stuck September 2020 exhibition.

The term "awareness muscle" was exhibited as part of the 2007 MoMA/PS1 exhibition 'Emergency Room'[5] by Thierry Geoffroy and included in the 'Emergency Room Dictionary'.[4] The term was also the subject of an interview/ conversation between Geoffroy and Per Aage Brandt, a Danish writer and linguist, in which the legitimacy and cognitive implications of such a muscle's existence was contextualized and analyzed.[6]


The awareness muscle plays a central role in Geoffroy's art formats,[7] in that it is the artists objective to "wake up" the audience (i.e. society, the general public) from their "sleep".[8] Geoffroy infers that contemporary art presented to the public is in delay,[9] and that it fails to address emergency themes before it is too late.[10] Training the awareness muscle can be seen as a way around this delay, and can also be seen as a form of activism[11] through art, encouraging the public to "train their awareness muscle" so that they are aware and willing to work against corruption, inequality and other relevant societal issues.[12]

Art Format

The presentation of the awareness muscle as an art format is mainly through the use of exercise machines, or physical activity. The physical stimulation serves as an activator for critical thinking, the speed and exertion expressing both the urgency of the situations one is being made aware of (the state of the world, climate change, xenophobia, etc.) and the haste of the work needed to be make oneself aware.[13]

The interaction of physical exertion and critical awareness is also important due to the addictive affect of exercise[14]; this aspect is used to fuel and inspire visitors to return to the format and continue to engage and train their awareness muscle.[15]

Format Examples

Awareness Muscle (Blackwood Gallery Toronto)

The earliest conception of the Awareness Muscle format took place at the Blackwood Gallery Toronto, as part of the University of Toronto's artist-in-residency program[16] in which the artist interacted and engaged with students of the university, gallery staff and members of the public. In particular the awareness muscle was activated in the university athletic center, involving participants using treadmills, the pool, stationary bikes and gym video panels as the physical stimulus and centred around a presentation by Geoffroy.[17] The awareness muscle is trained through Q&A style interviews with participants and personal investigations through debate on critical topics amongst other things.

The Welcoming Machine (Kunsthalle Osnabrück)

The awareness muscle format took place at the Kunsthalle Osnabrück,[18] in the form of a "Willkommensmaschine" (a welcoming machine), a sculptural adaptation of a pec-deck machine,[19] where visitors were invited to use the gym equipment's inward motion, rather than for its muscle training function, instead as a mechanism to simulate physical contact and demonstrate a welcoming movement; the equipment's function of pulling the arms toward the chest mimicking the action of embracing another person.[20]

Awareness Muscle Training Center (Museum Villa Stuck)

The awareness muscle training center is a 2020 exhibition at the Museum Villa Stuck in Munich, Germany. It 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.[2]


  1. "Blackwood Gallery | Awareness Muscle: Thierry Geoffroy/le Colonel". Retrieved 2020-07-23.
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Museum Villa Stuck: Thierry Geoffroy. THE AWARENESS MUSCLE TRAINING CENTER". Retrieved 2020-07-23.
  3. "Museum Villa Stuck: Thierry Geoffroy. THE AWARENESS MUSCLE TRAINING CENTER". Retrieved 2020-07-23.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Geoffroy, Thierry (2010). Emergency Room Dictionary. Denmark: Revolver Publishing by VVV & The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, School of Visual Arts. pp. 25–26. ISBN 978-87-7945-002-8.
  5. "Emergency Room | MoMA". The Museum of Modern Art. Retrieved 2020-07-30.
  6. "per_aage_brandt". Retrieved 2020-07-28.
  7. "Q&A: Alternatives – Thierry Geoffroy (part 1)". Cultural Development Consulting. 2013-03-16. Retrieved 2020-07-23.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  8. "Interview with Thierry Geoffroy. "The next Documenta or Venice Biennale should be curated by Mother Theresa"". A*Desk. 2017-07-10. Retrieved 2020-07-23.
  9. "#NOWBEFOREITISTOOLATE an exhibition by Thierry Geoffroy/ COLONEL". '. Retrieved 2020-07-23.
  10. "TOO LATE | 26 Apr - 15 Jun 2019". SABSAY Gallery. Retrieved 2020-07-23.
  11. Baden, Sebastian (2014-08-23), ""Occupy-Wall Street", "Ocularpation: Wall Street" und "Emergency Room"", Kunst und Öffentlichkeit, Wiesbaden: Springer Fachmedien Wiesbaden, pp. 113–141, doi:10.1007/978-3-658-01834-4_7, ISBN 978-3-658-01833-7
  12. "THE ACADEMY OF EMERGENCY ART: The awareness muscle has to be trained every day!". Retrieved 2020-07-23.
  13. Schrøder, Johanne. "Towards a Definition of Format Art. On the social, political and critical potential of Thierry Geoffroy’s art formats". On In SlideShare, 11th Dec. 2018,, accessed 23rd July, 2020.
  14. Terry, Annabel; Szabo, Attila; Griffiths, Mark (2004-10-01). "The exercise addiction inventory: a new brief screening tool". Addiction Research and Theory. 12 (5): 489–499. doi:10.1080/16066350310001637363. ISSN 1606-6359.
  15. Geoffroy, Thierry (2010). Emergency Room Dictionary. Denmark: Revolver Publishing by VVV & The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts. pp. 10–11. ISBN 978-87-7945-002-8.
  16. "Blackwood Gallery | Awareness Muscle: Thierry Geoffroy/le Colonel". Retrieved 2020-07-28.
  17. "Awareness Muscle: A Text in Two Parts Part One: Pre-Arrival by Seamus Keally 2007". Retrieved 2020-07-28.
  18. Lüddemann, Dr Stefan. "Vollbetrieb in der Kreativwerkstatt: "Was für ein Fest?": Kunsthalle Osnabrück startet Performance-Projekt". (in Deutsch). Retrieved 2020-07-23.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  20. "All sizes | The welcome machine @Kunsthalle Osnabrück | Flickr - Photo Sharing!". Retrieved 2020-07-23.

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