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The Epic, Sensory Manipulated Individual: CrossFit, Art Galleries and Extreme Journeys as Instruments of Self-Transformation
Cassandra Jane Hastie

Last modified: 2015-09-14


This paper seeks to further critically explore the religious dimensions of self-transformation in the West as explicated in Peter Sloterdijk’s You Must Change Your Life. Sloterdijk’s comparison between the Church of Scientology on one hand, and the International Olympic Movement on the other presents a particular comparison that I seek to amplify here. In this paper I compare the disparate but nevertheless insightful experiences of participating in the recently fashionable training regime of “CrossFit” with the more customary experience of visiting a state-funded art gallery. CrossFit sessions and visits to state art galleries, I will argue here, both embody a unique, specifically structured journey. Individuals, beginning in a state of uncultured or unhealthy dissatisfaction – usually in the form of a sense of disorder – experience a sense of withdrawal from humanity. This disengagement is characterised by a movement towards the extreme, which one might posit as monstrous, abject and nearing the incomprehensible boundaries of the human experience. The disconnection is heightened through the purposeful infliction of pain on the body in CrossFit and the framing of an art gallery experience with structured bursts of intense sensory deprivation. It is this pain and deprivation, I seek to argue here, that results in a reflection on and subsequent re-discovery of the self both in terms of its potential and ultimate meaning. Both experiences provide a transformation grounded in the physical human body, but more importantly demonstrate how these mechanisms of transformation rely on and foster a constructed Epic narrative that in turn reinforces the Atheist aesthetic. Furthermore, the experience of CrossFit and art galleries highlight how our quotidian lives are failing to fulfil the present “heroic” quest for individuals to change and improve their selves. Here I show that increasingly extreme, sensory manipulative journeys are required.


self-transformation; extreme experiences; Atheist aesthetic; CrossFit; art gallery;