The recent exercise works of the performance and social media artist Amber Hawk Swanson explore extreme fitness as an allegory for self-realization. Her exaggerated engagement with such activities as CrossFit compels Hawk Swanson to treat herself as her own object to be both cultivated and punished, and her works expose the slippery relations between self-admiration and same-sex desire that underwrite the pursuit of normative bodily ideals. These performances are placed in the context of Hawk Swanson's earlier investigations of conflicted self-objectification — in particular, her multiyear Amber Doll Project (2006 – 8) in which she daily collaborated with a life-size sex doll (a RealDoll) made in her own image. Hawk Swanson often stages her work for social media, and she has an online presence that has received millions of viewers. With this practice, she exposes herself to online forums that play out the enforcements of normativity in the generation of both ruthless anonymous comments and impassioned defenses. Such comments about gender, bodies, and sexualities were the catalyst for the exercise works and are incorporated into their defiant performances of self-realization.

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