This paper critically reflects upon the nature and significance of aesthetics and its multiple representations within leisure. The paper focuses upon one specific leisure context, the health club environment, and presents a critique of aesthetics within the discursive context of modernity and postmodemity. The paper outlines the emerging territory of aesthetics (Nickson et al, 2000; Van Maanen, 1990; Witz et al, 1998; Du Gay, 1996) and challenges its notion as a passive entity, instead suggesting that aesthetics resides within a ‘society of signs’ (Rojek 1995) or ‘regime of signs’ (Deleuze and Guattari 1984) with inscriptive and territorializing tendencies. The contention here is that the health club environment services and supports such a society in its construction, reaffirmation, maintenance and reactivation of desire. Desire (Nietzsche, 1967; Foucault 1984; Deleuze and Guattari 1984; Megill 1987) is intrinsically linked to the aestheticisation process as exemplified in the search for the body image of the ‘other’ (Fox 1993; Foucault 1984). However, this paper argues that this quest for the ‘other’ establishes a process of regulation and surveillance of the self, resulting in a continual dissatisfaction of desire alluded to through the metaphor of travel. Moreover, it is suggested that a paradox exists within the health club environment, reflecting both discourses of modernity and postmodernity. Modernity is represented in the rationalised body process and its deferral within a techno-centric/dependency culture. The postmodern discourse is represented in a consumer culture of instant gratification, where identity is transmuted through the sign.
- consumer culture
- health club