GYM JAMS Neil Winterburn
In Be Very Afraid: Cyborg Athletes, Transhuman Ideals & Posthumanity, Andy Miah presents elite sport as the cutting edge of hyper individualised posthumanism. Athletics is the arena in which our heroes are stretching the boundaries of what it is to be human, extending their performance with drugs, prosthetics or biotech: Posthumanity is already present in elite sporting practices. In this context, where sport is largely recognised as a moral pursuit, championing human values, athletes are identifiable as already posthuman in their biological constitution and in the manner of approaching technology as an enhancing resource.43 GYM JAMS was a high tempo clash of art and sport at Howe Bridge Leisure Centre on September 24th 2016. Re-Dock are interested in how sports venues like leisure centres can be used as spaces to experiment with and co-create new kinds of communal experiences. We’re excited less by individual excellence, than by sports and fitness activities as commonly understood rule based social systems, ripe to be unpicked, remixed and played around with. We’re not the first group of artists to reinvent games as a vision for future society. One of the ways that Bill Harpe and others at the Black-E, Liverpool invented what we came to know as community art, was through the upside downing44 of traditional party games. A signature game in their repertoire was a version of musical chairs in which floor tiles replaced chairs and for which players are challenged to work together to help each other fit on ever fewer numbers of tiles, instead of competing to eject each other. Whereas the Black-E’s motivation to remix games was to introduce children to utopian visions for future societies, ours was to introduce the idea that game, social and technological systems are things that we can tweak and remix, that they are ours to change.
The broader aim was to provide a mixing ground to test experimental cultural and technological activities that explored the potential of Howe Bridge, beyond its use as a workout space. The day weaved the testing of a prototype artwork in amongst skating boarding lessons, a mass dance showcase by local groups from Ashton, Golbourne, and Hagfold with special choreography from Dance Manchester45. Drumming & sound beam workshop from More than Words,46 Wigan. A pop-up cinema in the dance studio screening the 1982 film Breakin’. On the day, the technical aspect of the RoboGames didn’t work and although this was really frustrating at the time, it gives us a chance to unpack and talk openly about what went well and what didn’t work. The unpacking of a project that in some ways failed feels important, both in relation to the theme of kits and the wider question of how we transmit this kind of practice. If we only ever share exemplary projects and best practice then how are we, collectively, going to move on? GYM JAMS was funded by Inspiring Healthy Lifestyles and Arts Council Grants for the Arts.
Our focus with GYM JAMS wasn’t just the reinvention of new rules for games, but exploring different kinds of art and cultural interventions in the leisure centre, a space normally reserved for sport and fitness. 43 Miah, A. (2003). Be Very Afraid: Cyborg Athletes, Transhuman Ideals, and Posthumanity. Journal of Evolution and Technology, 13(2), http://www.jetpress.org/volume13/miah.html. 44 Bishop, C. (2012). Artificial Hells. October-Cambridge Massachusetts-, 390. https://doi.org/10.1017/ CBO9781107415324.004 56
45 http://www.digm.org/ 46 http://www.morethanwordsadvocacy.co.uk/ 57