The Best Body Builder in the World

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto

The Best Body Builder in the World, 2017

Inkjet prints on cotton fabric, printed polyester, embroidery thread
Various dimensions, 20 x 30 inches
Buy It Now: $4,950
Retail Value $4,500 / Starting Bid $1,800
Courtesy of the artist

In the works from the series Mussalmaan Musclemen on view at KB17, all images have been taken from a translation of a book supposedly originally written by Arnold Schwarzenegger, muscleman icon, actor and former governor of California. There is no true original English version as the book is a pirated mishmash of various books. This kaleidoscope of exercise manuals, alongside the Urdu translation and accompanying images of what appear to be white or white-passing men projects this book into a world of its own creation, existing neither completely in the East nor in the West. Rather, it occupies a liminal space. Bhutto explored this liminality by feminizing an otherwise ultra-masculine conversation. The artist scanned and printed these pages onto cotton fabric, blown up several times the size of the original; he then intervened by replacing hard muscle with soft flowery fabric and brightly colored embroidery thread, utilizing feminine practice to reveal the softness behind the muscle. The artist sought to create his own version of masculinity, making new men out of old ones and satirising the very serious and robust pride behind bodybuilding by inserting elements of humor and playfulness into it.

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, is an artist, performer, drag queen and curator of mixed Pakistani, Lebanese and Iranian descent. His work investigates complex identity politics formed by centuries of colonialism and exacerbated by contemporary international politics. Bhutto explores the politics of queerness, its intersections with Islam and how it exists in a constant liminal and non-aligned space. He is interested in issues of state violence and how that violence resonates in our collective memory, how it forms and shapes communities and by extension how it affects the individual.