Body Culture and Contrology was part of the exhibition, Sick Architecture at CIVA in Brussels.
Before health, wellness, and self-care became multi-billion dollar industries, late-19th and early 20th-century physical culture produced its own world of celebrities who established exercise regimes, diets, and gymnasiums. Inspired by this culture, the German-born boxer, and performer Joseph Pilates combined martial arts and gymnastics to create an exercise method built around mechanical apparatuses. Pilates refined his technique by rehabilitating wounded soldiers and training fellow internees when he was held with other German-nationals on the Isle of Man during World War I. This essay looks at the evolution of exercise at the scale of furniture at a time in German history where politics and the body were closely entwined. It connects Joseph Pilates’ to the morally and physically corrective orthopedic devices created by Moritz Schreber and their hypothesized impact on his son Daniel Schreber, who influenced Freud’s understanding of schizophrenia. This intimate spatial relationship connects the embodiment of industrialization to the ways exercise is instrumentalized to counterbalance the alienation of an increasingly technical world.